Catster logo

Do Cats Lick Themselves to Get Your Scent Off? 3 Surprising Theories

cat licking itself
Image Credit: Pixabay
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

Have you ever noticed your cat licking itself after being around you or right after you pet it? That’s because cats lick themselves as a way to keep clean and remove our scent from their fur. But why do cats do this? There are a few theories that we will discuss in this article.

3 cat face divider

The Top 3 Theories Why Cats Lick the Spot You Touched

  1. One theory is that cats may be trying to mask your scent from other cats. When you pet a cat, the oils from your skin are left behind, as well as any scents from soaps, lotions, and perfumes you may have used. Cats are territorial and can become threatened by strange smells in their environment. By licking the spot you touched, they may be trying to cover up that scent so other cats won’t be able to detect it. It’s also possible that cats just don’t like the way humans and our natural oils smell, so they use their own natural grooming techniques to remove it.
  2. Another theory is that cats may be trying to learn more about you by licking the area where your scent is left behind. Cats have a much more sensitive nose than humans, so they can pick up on subtle scents and tastes. If you notice your cat licking where you touch, they might be trying to gain new information about you.
  3. Yet another theory is that your cat is performing an act called “mutual grooming.” This is when cats groom each other as a sign of affection and bonding. By licking where you touched, your cat is essentially performing mutual grooming on you—expressing her love for you in her own special way. This theory would also explain why cats often lick their owners during petting sessions or when snuggling up with them.

Regardless of the reason behind it, one thing is certain—cats prefer to keep themselves clean, and they will do whatever they can to remove any unfamiliar scents from their fur. And that may very well include your own personal aroma.

So if you notice your cat licking itself after spending time with you, don’t take it personally. Your cat probably just wants to stay neat and tidy.

Cat licking its tongue
Image Credit: Adina Voicu, Pixabay

Do Cats Enjoy Human Kisses?

Are you the type of pet owner who likes to smother their cat in kisses? Well, it turns out that most cats don’t particularly enjoy being kissed by humans. Research shows that most cats prefer not to be touched on the face and mouth area, as this can be intimidating for them.

That doesn’t mean you have to stop showing your cat love and affection, though. Cats do appreciate a gentle pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. And if your cat enjoys cuddling, that’s another great way to show it some love and affection.

Now, all that said, it’s certainly possible that your cat doesn’t mind your kisses at all. There are some cats out there who are perfectly content with a smooch or two from their human companion.

So if your cat seems to be happy when you kiss it, then, by all means, keep on doing it—just remember to respect its boundaries if it ever starts to seem uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

At the end of the day, cats have their own unique personalities and preferences. So how your cat responds to human kisses may vary from one individual to the next.

But whether you prefer to kiss your cat or simply show it affection in other ways, know that the bond between you two is incredibly special and will only grow stronger with time.

woman kissing black cat
Image Credit: Piqsels

Why Do Cats Lick Themselves?

  • The primary reason cats lick themselves is to groom themselves and stay clean. Cats have an amazing sense of smell, so they often use their tongues to remove dirt and debris from their fur, as well as to spread natural oils throughout their coat.
  • Another reason cats may lick themselves is in response to a strong scent that they’ve picked up from another animal or person. This can be your scent or the scent of another pet in the home.
  • Cats may also lick themselves to try and get rid of that strong smell. Some cats will even rub their faces against people or objects to transfer their own scent onto them, which is why you often see cats rubbing up against furniture or other animals.
  • By licking themselves, cats are able to mask their own scent among the other smells they come into contact with. This can be beneficial if they’re trying to avoid capture or stay hidden from predators in the wild, so it’s an instinctual behavior that cats carry with them from their wild ancestors.
  • Another belief is that licking is a form of behavior known as displacement behavior, something often observed when a cat feels anxious or stressed. By licking, the cat may be attempting to find comfort and alleviate its anxiety.

cat paw divider


Overall, cats licking themselves is a normal behavior that helps them groom and stay clean while also helping them better understand their environment.

But if you notice your cat excessively licking itself, it could be a sign of stress or anxiety, and you should consult your veterinarian for further advice.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.


Follow Us

Shopping Cart