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Why Does My Cat Lick My Fingers? (Hunger or Love?)

If your cat has licked your fingers it may feel nice, or even step back. But, either way, it is likely to make you wonder why it has done this…

Why does my cat lick my fingers?

There are several reasons why your cat may lick your fingers such as it likes the taste of some food on there, showing you some affection, just feel that your hand needs cleaning, an attempt to groom you or to build on their social bond with you.

So, now you know. But, should you allow your cat to do this? Could this behavior be stress-related? Should you consider licking your cat back? Keep reading for these answers, and much more.

5 top reasons cat lick fingers:

Why does my cat lick my fingers?

A cat licking a finger.

Earlier I explained some of the reasons why a cat may lick your finger like this. Therefore, in this section, I will explain each one in more detail.

01. You have food on your hands

Sometimes a cat will lick your finger because of some excess food on your finger. The thing is, you may look at your hand and see nothing, then scratch your head wondering how this could be, right?

Well, cats can detect even a microscopic, well not exactly but you get my drift, taste of some food you just ate. For example, you may have just made a peanut butter sandwich, and just a dab could still be picked up by your cat.

02. Showing you affection

Cats can be loveable and affectionate. I say “can”, because they can also switch, lunge and bite, but for the most part, they enjoy their time with their owner. Therefore the chances are they will want to show their affection.

This affection can be shown in many ways, such as sitting in your lap (click here if this is not happening anymore), rubbing against you, or even licking your finger.

03. They feel they need cleaning

Cats are excellent at keeping themselves clean. However, this can sometimes work against them if they get hairballs, but that’s another story. They will keep themselves clean with their tongue.

If they feel your hands are dirty, they may just help you by licking them in this way.

04. Grooming you

Following on from the last section, keeping you clean, this is basically a way to groom themselves. And, sometimes a cat may start with licking your hand and then progress to other areas to groom you.

If your cat is grooming you, take it as a compliment. Why? well, they will only do this to people that they care about and love. So, they clearly wouldn’t do this if they didn’t value you.

05. Building a social bond

Sometimes a cat will just lick your finger in this way because they want to build a social bond with you. They like to keep their owners happy and reward them for the food they get. And doing this is just one way of doing it.

You may notice that cats do this licking and grooming to other cats, especially if they share the same household and get on with each other. This is because they deem them as trusted, and the same reason it’s chosen to do the same to you.

Should you let your cat lick your hand?

If you are OK with it then you should let your cat lick your hand. However, I would advise you to wash your hands after this. Some cat owners will go as far as to say that this should be considered an honor.

Why? Well, a cat will only do this because they have to have respect and love for the person they have chosen to do this too. Therefore, if it’s happening, this is why some this is good.

However, I totally get it if you are not happy with this because some people do not like the idea of the cat’s tongue, which they have used to lick themselves with, is making contact with their hand.

Do cats like the soap or lotion on your fingers?

Some cats do like the soap and lotion on your fingers. The theory is the presence of animal fats in the ingredients may contribute to this. However, there is no proven study to back this up.

But, regardless, there has been a report of a cat licking its owner’s soapy hands with delight. However, even if it appears to enjoy this, it is not a good idea to encourage your cat to lick these non-food items.

Why does my cat lick and chew on my fingers?

Why does my cat grab my hand and bite me?

Cat biting a hand.

A cat may lick and chew on your fingers as a way to playfight with you. This is more likely if they young, kittens or you have always encouraged this type of play together.

Some say that it is not good practice to condone this behavior. Why? Because it can be hard for a cat to know when to stop. And, it could lead to more aggressive behavior or even serious biting.

Could my cat lick me because of stress?

A cat could easily lick you because of stress. When this happens they can get excessive about licking in general. This could lead to excessive grooming. When they groom with this intensity it can lead to issues with their fur.

These issues include overgrooming their fur which can start to fall out leaving patches in it. This is why excessive grooming needs to be detected as soon as possible.

Should I lick my cat?

It is a bad idea to lick your cat. This is because you could ingest something off their fur that could cause you to feel sick, upset your stomach or cause a health issue. It may seem weirdly logical to repay your cat the favor by licking them back, but it’s not worth it.

Truthfully, there is no reason to even do this. Why? Well, I feel that your cat will even be shocked by your behavior because it’s not expected.

Do cats lick to mark territory?

Your cat can lick as part of its territory marking. It is true that in most cases it will be more likely to spray on an object or rub against you to mark territory, but licking is possible.

However, I would not assume that your cat intends this anytime it does lick you. It is more likely to be one of the top 5 reasons I mentioned earlier. This is because it’s not their preferred choice of marking.

Do cats bite fingers?

Cats do bite fingers, as well as licking them. One of the main reasons why this happens is if they are feeling overstimulated from your petting. They can then retaliate with a quick bite.

Another classic reason is if they are stroked in the wrong direction, against the grain. Basically back stroking them. This tends to really annoy any cat.

If you have ever tried to do this to a cat you are likely to see quite a strong reaction from them which will usually end with a bad scratch or a nip.

Lindsey Browlingdon