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Why Do Cats Lick Themselves After You Pet Them? 4 Reasons

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat licking itself close up

Why Do Cats Lick Themselves After You Pet Them? 4 Reasons

Cats engage in many behaviors that can leave us scratching our heads and wondering what’s going on. If you’ve found that your cat is doing something you can’t explain, it doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong, though it could be an indication of an underlying issue. Really, the only thing for sure is that we don’t always understand the subtle signs our pets are giving us.

One behavior that often throws cat owners off is licking during or shortly after petting. If your cat tends to lick itself or the air while you pet it or immediately after, you might be worried that your cat doesn’t like your attention or that something else is wrong. In truth, you might not be far off, but it depends on the cat. In reality, there could be several explanations for your cat’s behavior. Once we explore them, you’ll have a better understanding of why your cat is licking when you pet it.

cat paw divider

The 4 Reasons Why Cats Lick Themselves When Being Petted

1. Mutual Grooming

We’ll start with the most satisfying possibility first. If you have multiple cats, you may have noticed that they tend to groom each other simultaneously. Your cat may be simply trying to return the favor when you groom it by grooming you at the same time.

cat licking close up
Image Credit: Pixabay

2. An Itch You Can’t Scratch

Another common reason for licking during petting is that you’re triggering a reaction by petting or scratching an area they can’t reach during self-grooming. Your cat has a deep desire to groom all over. Those areas they can’t reach are generally the dirtiest and itchiest areas since they don’t get cleaned regularly. When you touch one of those areas, your cat might simply lick at whatever part of its body can be reached since it can’t get at the part you’re touching.

3. Underlying Skin Conditions

Your cat might be feeling uncomfortable with your touch because of some type of underlying skin condition. Several causes could be the culprit, including mites, fleas, or even allergies. If your cat reacts very harshly to your touch, it might be something as serious as feline hyperesthesia syndrome. This condition causes your cat’s skin to be incredibly sensitive, which means petting them could be quite painful.

Cat litter in bathroom
Image Credit: Karsten Paulick, Pixabay

4. They Might Not Like Being Petted

The final option is that your cat simply doesn’t like it when you pet them. This is probably not what you want to hear, but it is a possibility. Not all cats like to be touched, and you might just have a finicky feline who doesn’t want to be petted. Or, it might be that your cat doesn’t want to be touched in certain places. Petting in other areas might not induce the same response.


What to Do if Your Cat Licks While You Pet It

It may not be an indicator of anything bad, but you do want to know what it means when your cat displays this type of behavior. So, you need to do some detective work. First, check your cat’s body over gently and ensure there are no signs of any skin conditions that might make them uncomfortable. A veterinarian check-up might be necessary.

Also, try petting your cat in different places and see if the reaction is the same. It might just be the area you’re petting. If your cat leans into while petting in a different area, they probably like it. So, look for the subtle signs that can clue you into what your cat is feeling.

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It can be alarming when our pets start showing behaviors we don’t understand or care for. But these behaviors can often offer us clues into how our pets feel about our actions. They can’t speak to us, so it’s up to us to look for these signs and glean what information we can. If your cat is licking you or itself when you pet it, it may not mean anything is wrong. But it’s worth looking into to ensure your cat is healthy and happy and you’re not doing anything accidentally that’s causing it discomfort.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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