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Why Does My Cat Lick Me in the Middle of the Night? 5 Possible Reasons

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat licks the head of a human

Why Does My Cat Lick Me in the Middle of the Night? 5 Possible Reasons

If you are a cat person, you have probably received several licks from your cat. But why would your cat be licking you in the middle of the night? Are they trying to express love? Or are they trying to alert you about something? It could be anything. We all know that cats are strange, but there are very few instances in which you’d welcome an interruption of sleep for a licking session.

Below, we’ve listed five possible reasons for this behavior.


The 5 Possible Reasons Why Cat Licks in the Middle of the Night?

1. To Clean You

According to your feline friend, there is no such thing as clean enough. You could always use some extra grooming. It also does not help that their highly-tuned senses pick up the faintest smells. Of course, they could clean you during the day, but you are either too busy or not around for a proper grooming session. So, your cat might wait for you to sleep so that they can clean you thoroughly.

cat licking human arm
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

2. To Bond and Show Affection

As mentioned, grooming is the most common way cats express affection. It starts with mothers licking their kittens. Your cat wants to show you that affection, too. Therefore, it does not matter to your cat if it is in the middle of the night. You can get the licks at any place and at any time.

3. To Mark You

If you didn’t know, you belong to your cat, not vice versa. It also does not matter to them whether you acknowledge that or not as long as other cats do. So, how will other cats know that you belong to another feline?

They will know by the distinct scent you always have on you: your cat’s scent. Cats transfer their scent through a myriad of ways, including licking. You will notice that your kitty typically wants nothing to do with you if you spend time with another cat during the day.

This is because they smell the other cat’s scent on you. Therefore, to avoid making your kitty insecure, limit the frequency you interact with foreign cats.

Cat licking woman's ear
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

4. Your Skin is Salty

Sweat is extremely salty. To some cats, the smell and taste of sweat might be interesting. Your cat could be licking you at night because they want to lick the salt off you.

5. Your Cat is Anxious or Stressed

House felines tend to lick compulsively when they are under pain or stress. They lick not only themselves but also other objects and people around them. Often, it is an indication that they need some soothing. Cats may also lick you when they feel that you are anxious or upset. That is their way of soothing you.

cat licking human fingers
Image Credit: Svetlana.Is, Shutterstock

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Stopping Your Cat from Licking You

Despite their good intentions, you might not appreciate it when your cat interrupts your sleep to lick you, and licking sessions can be rough. Unlike a dog’s smooth tongue, a cat’s tongue is covered by numerous backward-facing hooks known as papillae.

These sharp hooks are made of keratin, which is the same material found in claws and nails. That is why you might not like the sensation of your cat’s tongue against your skin.

The best way of dealing with this behavior at night is by locking your kitty out of the bedroom. During the day, distraction works better. Avoid getting upset at your cat, as they will feel rejected.

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Whether you like it or not, you have to tolerate some licking from your cat. Fortunately, most cats lick their owners because they care about them or like how they taste. However, late-night licking is unpleasant, especially if it wakes you up. Instead of yelling at your cat every time it happens, you can keep them out of the bedroom when you go to sleep. During the day, ensure you spend time playing with your cat. It may convince them to reduce their nighttime licking.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: MegSopki, Shutterstock

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