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Why Does My Cat Hold My Hand And Lick It? (Ravenous?)

If your cat is holding your hand and licking it you may be wondering why this is happening and if this is normal…

Why does my cat hold my hand and lick it?

There are several reasons why your cat may hold your hand and lick it. Some of the main reasons include its desire to want to play with you, a way of it grooming you, or a way to bond with you. Either way, your cat has good intentions when it does this.

So, now you know. But, do cats like licking their owners? Why do their tongues feel so rough when they do this? What if they also bite while they do it? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

3 Top Reasons why your cat will hold your hand and lick it:

Why does my cat hold my hand and lick it?

A cat licking a hand.

Earlier I briefly mentioned some of the reasons why your cat may hold and lick your hand. So, in this section I will go into more detail on each of these top reasons:

01. Wants to play

Cats tend to love their owners and one of their way to show this is to play with them. The same as they would their littermates, as kittens, or with their mother. So, when you see them doing this to your hand take it as a compliment, they love and trust you. You are effectively their trusted companion.

02. Grooming you

As you may know, cats like to keep themselves clean and in order. And, the main way they achieve this is through grooming themselves. And, you may have even seen one cat grooming another, right? Well, this is the same reason why it may groom you. It wants to keep you clean and well kept because it respects you like family.

03. Bonding with you

Another reason a cat may do this is to bond with you. Licking, and sometimes biting gently, is a way for them to bond with their littermates. And, because they respect and love you this may be extended to you.

Do cats like licking their owners?

Cats do like licking their owners. The theory is it comes from their time as young kittens, with their littermates. At this stage, they were known to lick and groom each other as a method to keep clean and offer each other affection.

So, when your cat licks you next, or you see another cat doing it to their owner you have an idea of why that is happening. And the benefit that it offers, emotionally, to that cat.

Should you let your cat hold your hand and lick it?

If your cat is being gentle, and you are OK with it, it’s fine for them to lick you. However, if you are not OK with it. Or your cat is licking, biting, and making you feel uncomfortable then do not tolerate it. If it’s the latter you will have to give your cat some body language to make it understand you are not happy with it.

This body language, to send a signal that you are not happy, can be as subtle as moving your hand away when it starts. It should not be anything too strong or negative like shouting or pointing at it aggressively. This kind of response usually distresses the cat and may cause issues in your relationship down the line.

Why does a cat’s tongue feel rough when it licks you?

A white and black cat licking its own nose.

A white and black cat licking its own nose.

A cat’s tongue may feel rough when it licks you because it has little barbs on it called filiform papillae. These little barbs resemble little hooks and many say it feels like mild sandpaper. The theory is it’s needed for lapping up liquid along with other things.

Most people assume a cat’s tongue would be soft. So, if you have ever felt a cat’s tongue and were surprised at how rough it felt now you now know why this is and a potential reason for why it is this way.

What does it mean when a cat grabs your hand?

When a cat grabs your hand it is usually a request to playfight. This often includes lightly grabbing your hand with its teeth or wrestling with it using its paws. The reality is, there is a good chance you will get either scratched or bitten during this process.

However, the level of aggression varies depending on your cat. Some play really gently and nicely. Whereas others push the line of playfighting and genuine aggression and it can become intimidating. Some say it’s not advisable to encourage it for this reason.

What if your cat starts lightly biting your hand?

If your cat starts lightly biting your hand while licking it then it is likely to be trying to groom you. If you look at how they groom themselves, or other cats, they often lick and then choose certain spots to lightly bite, so it may do the same to you.

The question is are you OK with it? Some cat owners love bonding with their cat and are fine with it. Others are not so keen and want their cat to stop doing it. So, it depends on how you feel about it.

Could your cat be trying to lick and claim you?

Cats can be quite territorial and when they lick or even rub against you, this could be their subtle way of claiming you as their territory. This is why you will see some cats headbutting their owners as well. The scent they leave behind is important for cats.

To a cat, the scent of another cat is like a massive banner outside of your house saying the owner of this property is x, are you with me? Hence the reason they do this.

Could your cat be trying to teach you to groom yourself?

Another reason a cat may lick your hand is a subtle way to teach you how to groom yourself. Maybe it fears that you are neglecting yourself and need some guidance on how to groom yourself.

The theory is this thought process may stem from the lessons learned from their mother cat as they grew up like a kitten. And, they feel compelled to pass it on to you now.

Is it a good sign if your cat holds your hand and licks it?

If your cat holds your hand and licks it this is a good sign. This is because it proves that your cat loves you enough to do it and has a lot of trust in you. Because, if they didn’t they would not come that close to you in the first place.

So, whatever the reason for this licking, whether that be bonding, grooming, etc. It shows they want to be near you and respect you.

Could your cat be licking you to taste your hand?

There is a chance that your cat is simply licking your hand because it has some tasty residue on it. for example, you could have just prepared a meal and have the smell of cooked chicken on your hands which may make your cat want to have a taste.

Admittedly, this is less likely because most owners would wash their hands right after cooking, but it is a possibility never the less.

Lindsey Browlingdon