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Why Is My Cat Licking Dust?

If your cat is licking dust you may be wondering why this is happening and if there is anything you can do about it… 

Why Is My Cat Licking Dust?

Cats can be quite peculiar sometimes and this is likely a behavioral issue occurring with your cat. It might be that the cat enjoys the textures and the taste of the dust and if they are young, it might even be a bit of a novelty and this behavior might just go away over time.

So, now you know. But, what exactly is dust? How can I prevent my cat from licking it? Could this behavior be related to its Jacobsen’s organ? Keep reading for these answers, and so much more…

What exactly is dust?

Woman dusting lamp.

Woman dusting lamp.

While we tend to think of it as simply dirt, when you magnify dust then you can see that there is a lot more to it. Dust is made up of things like pollen, plastic microparticles, fibers from clothing, skin cells, dust mites, soil, and little bits of dead bugs.

This assortment includes protein sources, so this could be part of the appeal for your cat, though dust also has bacteria in it as well. This makes regular dusting in the house a good idea, especially if your cat has taken an interest in the dust.

How can I prevent my cat from licking dust?

The best defense is going to be regular dusting, especially in areas which are prone to collecting dust and where your cat is spending the most time in. If you see your cat engaging in this behavior, you can try distracting them with play, and consider picking out some toys which your cat can chew that will be healthier for them.

Health supplements can be added to their food and if the behavior ceases after this, you’ll want to modify their diet to ensure that they are getting the vitamins which they need. Finally, an animal behavioral specialist can help if the behavior is a compulsion, so be sure to check with your vet if these strategies do not seem to be helping.

We should note at this time, if your cat is not getting sick and seems to suffer no ill effects from this behavior, they might just like how the dust tastes. It’s a little weird, of course, but it might simply be a quirk of your cat’s personality which warrants no action at all!

Could my cat’s dust licking be related to its Jacobsen’s organ?

Another possibility is the Jacobsen’s organ. Also known as the vomeronasal organ, this essentially allows cats to smell with their mouths! Consider the source of the dust.

Are they only licking certain dusty areas in the house or any dust that they find?  If there is a scent to the dust which they find interesting, then this could be the allure for them.

To rule out any sort of vitamin deficiency, you can try a different cat food and feeding schedule to ensure that your cat is getting proper nutrition. Finally, there is a condition called ‘Pica’ which involves the compulsive ingestion of non-food items.

Your cat will generally be eating more than dust in cases such as this, but if the behavior continues or escalates to other items then a vet visit to rule out Pica is a good idea.

How can I get rid of dust in my home?

The best ways to get rid of dust in the home are going to be regular dusting and vacuuming, although you can also greatly reduce the amount of dust in the house with a small Air purifier. Many of the purifiers on the market today are HEPA compliant, which means that they can filter up to 99.97% of contaminants in the area surrounding them.

A portable HEPA compliant Air purifier placed in the room where your cat is licking dust most often should reduce the level of dust and also improve the overall air quality. If you have allergies, this can also make a big difference, so an Air purifier is well worth considering for both you and for your cat.

How can I clean off the dust from my cat’s face?

Typically, a damp, clean washcloth will do the trick, but you can also purchase commercial ‘cat wipes’ at your local pet store or online. When you are cleaning the dust, pat lightly with your washcloth and rub it gently over the affected areas and the dust should come right off with very little difficulty.

If it is a large amount of dust, you can use a little Cat or Baby shampoo, just be sure to dilute it a little and keep it away from your cat’s eyes and ears.

After cleaning, wrap your kitty up into a warm towel and be sure to give them a treat and a little affection so that they will consider staying there for a little while to dry.

Why is my cat licking coal dust?

Charcoal burning.

Charcoal burning.

If your cat is licking something like coal dust, it could well be a sign of Pica or an indication of a condition such as anemia and you’ll want to schedule a visit with the vet. Generally, over the counter cat food will meet all of a cat’s nutritional requirements, so it is unlikely to be related to their diet.

A vet can run some tests to take a closer look at your cat’s health and this should determine definitively if it is a health issue or a behavioral one.

Why does my cat lick off the chip dust from my fingers?

Your cat probably likes the taste, and while allowing them to lick your fingers from time to time will generally be okay, this is not something that you want to allow every time. First off, chips are very salty, and this is going to give their urinary tracts and kidneys a workout that can become more difficult over time.

There are also ingredients that are a definite no-no for your cat, such as garlic and onions – these vegetables are toxic to cats and while the amount in the chips is minimal, these are definitely not good for your cat.

Finally, junk foods like chips can increase your cat’s chances of obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions – so consider getting some cat treats to give your kitty while you snack on your chips. That way you both get a delicious snack and you know that your cat is eating something that is not so risky for their health.

Why does my cat lick Cheeto dust off my fingers?

Some cats love cheesy flavors. Cheeto dust isn’t really good for them, although you could let them lick the dust from time to time as long as you don’t overdo it. If your cat has a hankering for cheese, then you might consider some cheese-flavored cat treats.

Cheese-flavored treats are better than feeding them actual cheese, as cats are carnivores and lack the lactase enzymes to properly digest it. So, consider getting some cheese flavored treats and that way your cat has their own ‘Kitty Cheetos’ to enjoy while you are snacking on your chips.

What causes pica in cats?

The causes of pica in cats are actually unknown, but they may be related to conditions and behaviors such as compulsive disorder, boredom, malnutrition, anemia, and stress. Pica can manifest as early as 3 months old, though some cats will eventually grow out of these behaviors once they are around one or two years old.

Is pica bad for cats?

In some cases, pica is quite harmless, and more of a ‘personality quirk’ than a problem. If your cat is experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, constipation, or redness in the mouth, then their pica should be addressed and treated with the assistance of your vet and an animal behavioral specialist.

Try to remove the types of non-food objects which your cat likes to ingest and distract them with play when you see them engaging in pica behaviors and this can help but if you are seeing any of the symptoms which we have listed, then you should definitely engage the services of a veterinarian to help determine the root cause of the pica and the best course of treatment.  

Lindsey Browlingdon