Why Does My Cat Lick My Face

cat licking paws

A cat licking your face can be an adorable experience, often serving as a dopamine booster when you’re in a bad mood. In fact, a cat’s tongue serves a lot of purposes, including grooming, feeding, showing affection, marking territory, and communication. Interestingly, they spend 30-50% of their day cleaning their fur! Considering their tongues are one of their greatest assets, a lot of cat parents may be wondering: “Why does my cat lick my face?” 

Reasons Why Your Cat Licks You

Normally, we think our cat is trying to show us affection. Oftentimes this may indeed be the case! However, these cat-kisses are not just limited to showing affection – in fact, there are multiple other reasons why your cat may be licking your face.

Showing Love and Care

The biggest reason behind your cat licking your face is that he/she loves you, and licking is considered an expression of love in the cat language. You mean a lot to your cat; he wants to express that by giving you small smooches. This behavior generally arises from kittenhood when the mother cat grooms her kittens by licking their fur and purrs as a sign of love. So, most of the cats carry this behavior when they grow up.

Grooming You

Cats love grooming their human to make them look paw-fect! Your cat may assume that grooming you is beneficial, just as their mothers did to them. Scientifically speaking, this process is known as allogrooming, where mother cats groom their kittens, and the kittens then groom each other as well. So when your cat is licking your face, they’re performing their role as an allogroomer.

Catching Your Attention

“Hooman look! I killed a rat!”

Well, sometimes your cat just wants attention. Sometimes if you’re too busy to notice its meows, your cat might start to lick your face to catch your attention. Sometimes, your cat just wants to be tickled; other times, he/she may have something interesting to show you. But be careful; if licking doesn’t work, they may bite you out of frustration!

They Might be Stressed Out

Your cat can be depressed, anxious, and stressed. Even though we don’t talk about it often, cats are emotional creatures! If your cat is licking your face and you don’t see a particular reason as to why, there’s a chance that something is bothering your kitty, and he’s licking your face to overcome stress. 

In this case, you might want to check what’s causing your cat this much stress. Sometimes, the presence of other cats, injury, hunger, other health-related issues, or the feeling of being lonely can trigger these emotions. So, it is important for a cat parent to observe the surroundings and remove the triggering factors for your kitty.

It Could Be a Warning Sign

Dr. Williams, a certified veterinarian, suggests that if your cat’s licking behavior is out of the ordinary, you may want to consult a vet since your cat may have a health-related issue that he wants you to check. This can include injuries, bad stomach, or some other issue that needs to be checked instantly. 

Moreover, if your cat is licking himself excessively, this could indicate a problem in that certain area. So, it is highly advised to seek a vet’s assistance immediately. On this note, it’s generally advised to take your cat to the vet at least once a year anyways.

Why Does It Hurt When Your Cat Licks You?

Don’t worry! Your cat’s tongue is totally fine. 

A cat licking your face can be uncomfortable no matter how lovingly they do it. Sometimes, it even gets painful. If you look at your cat’s tongue more closely, you will see tiny white hair-like formations on it. These formations are called papillae and are tiny hooks facing backward on the cat’s tongue, made with keratin – the same protein that helps you grow nails and hair. 

The papillae give your cat a sandpaper-type appearance since they are essential for a cat’s grooming and eating. Cats comb their fur using papillae, and when it comes to licking the skin of their prey, these tiny hooks play a crucial role. Unfortunately, these protrusions can also be slightly uncomfortable and scratchy when they rub against our skin!

Is It Safe If Your Cat Licks You?

Yes! As long as there’s no harmful substance on your face or a fresh wound that could be reopened again, it should be totally fine if your cat is licking you. There may be some risks of bacteria spreading on your face, but cats, in general, are very clean animals. 

Just in case, when you know they’re done licking you, consider washing yourself with antibacterial soap.

This being said, getting licked by a cat can be harmful if you’re allergic! Scientifically speaking, there’s a protein called Fel D1 in a cat’s saliva that triggers allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. As such, being directly exposed to their saliva during a licking session might get a bit uncomfortable for those with cat allergies. Don’t worry though, there are many amazing products out there to remedy these issues! One such product is Pacagen’s Cat Allergen Neutralizing Spray, which safely and effectively neutralizes the effects of Fel D1, thereby making your household allergy-friendly and allowing you to comfortably play around with your cats all day long!


Overall, despite how uncomfortable it can feel, sometimes your furballs licking your face are a wholesome experience. Among other reasons, cats can also lick you because you taste interesting, or your cat might have some dental problems. Maybe they’re claiming you as their own property, or they may be trying to soothe themselves. Cats are loving animals and they mean no harm to you at all. By taking care of their needs, including their health, grooming, or food, you can build a beautiful relationship with your cat.