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Why Is My Cat Licking Everything all of a Sudden? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Black cat licking a woman's toes

Why Is My Cat Licking Everything all of a Sudden? 5 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.

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Cats have amazing tongues; they’re full of special powers that we can’t even begin to understand. Kitties use their tongues to do everything from clean themselves to explore the world. If your cat is suddenly going crazy when it comes to licking, you might be wondering what, if anything, is going on with your feline companion.

Increased licking can be a response to a range of factors, from the mundane to the potentially problematic. Your cat could just be bored, or it could indicate that something more serious is going on. Increased licking is often a sign of pain or irritation from parasites, depending on where and how often your cat is licking. Read on to discover five possible reasons your cat is licking everything all of a sudden.


The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Licking Everything

1. Your Cat Is Exploring a Scent

cat smells, lick feet and toes in bed
Image Credit: Beatriz Vera, Shutterstock

Cats use their tongues to explore the world. They have a special organ at the top of their mouths, the Jacobson’s organ, that allows them to “taste” scents. It’s why a cat will open their mouth a bit when sniffing things. Your cat might be licking things more than usual if they’ve discovered a new or tantalizing scent to explore. This is particularly likely if you’ve recently introduced a new pet or person to your home.

You’ll also see an increase in taste-smell sniffing and licking if a household cat has gone into heat. Cats use their tongues to sense pheromones which provide information about cats they come into contact with. Felines, particularly unneutered males, will naturally be more curious about scents left behind by a queen in heat and will spend more time exploring any markers left behind by a cat in estrus.

2. You’ve Left Something Interesting Behind

While we’d all like to believe we’re good about cleaning things up, your cat might be making it clear that you need to do a bit of deep cleaning. Cats can smell aromas that humans don’t have the nose to discern; their sense of smell is 14 times stronger than ours. As a result, your cat may be licking an area where they smell something enticing.

If your cat keeps licking the couch where you typically sit and eat popcorn, it’s probably a good sign that you’ve missed a few bits and pieces, and it’s time for a good deep clean. Likewise, if your kitty seems unduly interested in the area around your trash bin, you might need to do extra cleaning to eliminate deeply embedded odors that might be attracting your cat.

3. Your Cat Is in Pain

tabby cat licking her paw
Image Credit: SJ Duran, Shutterstock

Cats tend to lick themselves when they’re in pain. If you notice your cat repeatedly licking themselves, it might indicate they aren’t feeling well.

Cats often lick a specific body part to try to alleviate localized pain. For example, a cat with a thorn or something sharp in their paw will often lick the area to provide relief. Cats exhibiting a more generalized licking pattern often suffer from more systemic issues, like allergies or skin conditions. Felines with food allergies are notorious for licking their tummies, backs, and other large areas, and large-scale generalized licking can often be an indication of a neurological problem in older cats.

4. Your Cat Has Fleas or Parasites

Cats will often lick to relieve the itching associated with fleas or parasites. Excessive licking around the head and ears usually indicates a problem with fleas. Fleas can hitch a ride on the clothing of a visitor whose pet has fleas, or your cat can pick up a nasty visitor during a vet visit. If you’ve recently purchased a used piece of furniture, there’s a chance it might have come with an annoying hitchhiker.

Parasites are another common culprit behind increased licking; even indoor cats can end up with worms. Cats get worms when they ingest tapeworm eggs carried by fleas. If your cat has eaten a flea, there’s a good chance they’ll get tapeworms. Worm eggs are also often in potting soil, and your cat can quickly end up with parasites just by investigating the new plant in the house.

5. Your Cat Is Stressed

tabby cat licking a man's hand
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

Cats often engage in excessive grooming when they’re particularly stressed, which can have a variety of causes. Extremely intelligent breeds like Bengal and Savannah cats will often become super stressed if they don’t have enough mental or physical stimulation. Cats with high socialization needs that suffer from separation anxiety will often resort to excessive grooming as an anxiety-relief mechanism.

Three common stressors include new babies, moving to a new home, and introducing another pet. Other triggers include constant loud noises that occur during construction and home renovations.

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Final Thoughts

Cats engage in excessive licking for various reasons, from curiosity to stress. While licking too much may seem like a relatively minor issue, it’s almost always an indication that something is bothering your feline companion, and it’s vital to reach out to your veterinarian for help determining the cause of this behavior.

Featured Image Credit: Jasmin Bauer, Shutterstock

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