Cats are known for licking and brushing themselves and each other. They are clean animals, a cat finds a spotless fur very important.
But why does your cat lick your hair or hands? And why does she wash herself when you’ve stroked her?
Licking and brushing: what your cat means
Washing each other is part of social behavior in cats. When they feel comfortable and safe in each other’s company, brushing is done. They usually limit themselves to the head and shoulders of the other. Other body parts are often taboo according to the cat etiquette, although there are cats who wash each other all over the body.
Read more about cat behaviors :
Licking and brushing the owner
Many cats take the owner along in their washing behavior, for example by licking your hair. Scientists do not (yet) know what this means, but it strongly resembles the social behavior between cats. It would then be a sign that your cat likes you and wants to maintain a bond with you.
There is no evidence that cats would do this because they were taken away from the mother too soon. In that case you would rather expect a cat to suck, although that behavior can also have various causes !
Smells and flavors
It is also said that cats lick and brush you because they are attracted by shampoo, body milk or another care product. I currently use two different brands of hand creams (well, garden season …). My hangover extensively licks my hands at one, but not at the other brand.
There are also cats that will wash you if you are sweaty. The scent may then be the reason to thoroughly brush you.
Cats can get substances that are not good for them by licking your skin. In 2015, the FDA (the American Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) issued an official message about the dangers of analgesic creams for human use, the LICG warns against hair colorants and sunscreen . An overview of sunscreen creams that are safe for cats can be found here .
Phone and lick
Does your cat come and sit with you and lick you when you are appeling or making a call? Then it requires attention, because she has learned in the past that at such moments you will respond by stroking or hugging.
Brush after stroking
There are also cats that will fanatically lick themselves when you have petted them. That would be because the hair of the fur would then be confused. This too has never been investigated.
I think it’s very cat and time dependent. You can stroke a cat roughly through the fur one moment, another time a light touch is enough for a big wash. Did she not feel like petting, do you have a strange or unpleasant odor on your hand? Who will say!
Ah, raw tongue!
Because the cat’s tongue is rough , licking or washing can be painful. Yet you cannot punish your cat for this behavior. Don’t put her away either, because she means positive. Prefer to distract her with a toy so that you shift her attention.