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Why Do Cats Lick Dogs? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on June 11, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat sniffing a dog

Why Do Cats Lick Dogs? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Who says that cats and dogs can’t live in harmony? Most people think that cats and dogs do not like each other, hence the saying, “fighting like cats and dogs,” but that’s not always true.

Cats and dogs can get along famously and even form strong friendships. When you see your cat licking your dog, there are reasons for the behavior. In this article, we’ll explore the four possible reasons why your cat licks your dog, and each one will make you smile.


The 4 Reasons Why Cats Lick Dogs

1. Grooming

Grooming is a favorite pastime for cats, and they often groom each other if they are bonded. It is a way to show acceptance of another animal, and if you see your cat grooming your dog, that means the cat considers the dog a friend.

It also shows trust or that the cat has accepted the dog, so the next time you see your cat licking your dog, know that it’s perfectly normal and special, and there is no cause for alarm.

Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

2. Motherly Instinct

Another reason could simply be a motherly instinct. Licking is a way a cat expresses motherly love, and your cat may express this love to the family dog. If you have a puppy, your cat may lick the puppy, thinking it needs to be cared for and is helpless without them. Witnessing a sight of this nature is truly special and is certainly photo-worthy.

3. Affection

Licking is another way to show affection, and it helps to build strong bonds between the two. Licking and grooming is a natural way for cats to calm themselves, and when they lick and groom the family dog, they are calm, relaxed, and feel no threat toward the canine companion. The dog probably enjoys the special treatment, too!

cat grooming dog, cat lick dog
Image credit: Katie Halverson, Shutterstock

4. Scent

Our last possible reason why your cat licks your dog is because of scent. When a cat licks a dog, they leave their scent behind, and the next time the cat curls up with the dog, the scent will be familiar. Cats have an extraordinary sense of smell, with roughly 200 million sense receptors in their nasal passage compared to humans, who only have 6 million.

The cat may also be curious about the dog’s smell. Dogs sometimes have food particles stuck to their face, or the cat may be attracted to the natural oils in the dog’s fur. Even if the licking is due to curiosity, it’s still a great sign because it means the cat is comfortable enough to lick the dog.

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As you can see, when a cat licks a dog, it is nothing but a positive situation, and you can feel happy that your cat thinks so highly of a dog in the first place! You may want to monitor the behavior first to make sure the dog is comfortable with being licked. If your dog doesn’t care for it, you may need to separate the two, but odds are your dog won’t mind it and may even welcome it.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: nekodg, Pixabay

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