Sometimes a cat that’s happy, healthy and well-adjusted can regress to a kitten-like state from time to time by showing infantile behavior like licking at your shirt. Often when a cat is feeling affectionate and relaxed, they’ll often treat their human owner like their long-ago cat mother, and will recreate the mother-infant bond, often by performing nursing-related behaviors. How a cat expresses this behavior differs from cat to cat, although treading and kneading with their paws and claws, licking, sucking, drooling, and nuzzling, are all replays of kitten nursing behavior.
Should you be bothered if your cat decides to lick at your shirt? No, because it’s an expression of affection by your cat. However, if you can’t stand the behavior, you can gently tap your cat lightly on the nose every time it does it, or you can pick it up and set it on the floor every time it overdoes it. Usually, the cat will quickly get the idea.
Why Does My Cat Lick My Shirt?
A cat’s tongue is one of its greatest assets. They have tongues covered in “papillae,” these curved spines are used to groom themselves – they’ll spend 30% of their day keeping their fur clean. So, with all of that time spent on hygiene, many cat owners often wonder: “Why does my cat lick My Shirt?”
6 Potential Reasons Why Your Cat Licks You
Although we’ve briefly covered this behavior at the start of this post, we’ll go into more detail and give other reasons why your cat tries to lick your shirt. Although it’s impossible to say for sure, cat behavior experts have suggested a few reasons why your cat may lick you every now and again. Let’s dig in…
1. To Show Affection
For cats, licking is not only used as a grooming mechanism, it’s used to show affection. By licking their owner, other cats, or even other pets, the cat is trying to create a social bond. As previously mentioned, this behavior may stem from kittenhood when the cat’s mother licked to groom them and to show care and affection. Many cats will continue this behavior into their adult lives, licking their owners’ clothes to pass along the same sentiment.
2. Marking Their Territory
Cats use pheromones (scented hormones) to mark their territory. They have small glands in their cheeks that are used to secrete pheromones. Although humans cannot smell it, other cats can. Therefore, by rubbing their cheeks on furniture, other household pets, or your legs, they’re marking their territory with their pheromones. Your cat may also lick you as a way of claiming you as its own.
Licking or head rubbing are affectionate ways a cat will claim you as part of their property. When your cat licks or rubs against you, they’re simply reaffirming that you’re important to them and want other cats to know this. You may have noticed in the past a cat shying away from you; it’s possible that they smell that you already belong to another cat.
3. To Groom You
Even though your cat may not realize that licking you isn’t helping you in any way to “get clean,”. Nevertheless, this behavior is completely natural to them. As previously mentioned, mother cats groom their kittens in order to teach them to do it for themselves.
4. To Taste Something Interesting On Your Clothes
Although it may seem silly to us, your cat may be licking you because they taste something interesting on your clothes. You may’ve spilt something on your shirt, or come into contact with something that’s left residue on your shirt – your cat may simply like the way it tastes. If it’s warm, or you’ve been exercising, they may be interested in sweat which leaves a salty residue, and that’s what your cat is trying to taste.
Interestingly, although a cat’s tongue is made for grooming, they’ve got a much more muted sense of taste in comparison to humans. In fact, cats are the only known mammal that can’t taste sweets.
5. To Get Your Attention
Another plausible reason your cat licks your shirt may just be that they’re trying to get your attention. Whether they’re trying to get you to pet them, feed them, or pay attention to them, the cat may be licking your clothes to try to capture your attention.
In this case, you can consider it to be the equivalent of any other attention-seeking cat behavior, like pawing at you or meowing.
6. They’re Trying To Cope With Anxiety Or Stress
Finally, the cat may be licking your clothes because they’re anxious or stressed. Although excessive licking or grooming can sometimes indicate a medical issue, often when a cat licks you, or themselves, they do it as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety.
For example, this can happen after moving to a new home or experiencing a change in their environment.
How Do I Get My Cat To Stop Licking My Clothes?
Unless your cat is repeatedly grooming too much or licking you, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about, as it’s a natural cat behavior.
If you’re looking to stop this behavior, the best thing for you to do is to try to redirect their attention. If your cat loves to cuddle, you can cuddle or start petting them to try to distract them from licking. Similarly, you can try to use a toy to divert their attention from licking to playing. Alternatively, you can simply walk away or move away from your cat if the licking becomes excessive.
In short, this behavior is normal for cats. The most probable reason is that your cat is trying to groom you. It’s nothing more than a friendly gesture, and a way for your cat to get some attention.