Cats express affection in ways that differ from how humans and other animals do. They rub their bodies against their owner’s legs, headbutt their owners, smell their breath, and even lick their noses. Cat owners have probably asked, “why does my cat lick my nose” because they have experienced such a bunch of times. So, let’s explore this topic to find out the answers.
Is licking your nose your cat’s way of giving your kisses? Probably yes, or probably no. It can be baffling for cat owners sometimes because a cat licking your nose can mean many things. To fully understand this puzzling habit, let’s discuss where or when cats learned to lick their noses or lips. Licking is a cat’s primary action for grooming itself and its family members. Cats learn this licking tradition from their mother.
Cat mothers lick their kittens to groom or clean them. They also make this gesture to stimulate the kittens to pee or poop or keep them warm. This action also creates a strong bond between the cat and its kittens. Lastly, cats lick their young to keep their scent in them. As they grow into adults, kittens follow this licking tradition. Licking or grooming is not only for cleaning but also for socializing with other cats.
Anxiety or Stress
Excessive licking, whether on your nose, hands, or other objects at home like furniture, can manifest your cat’s anxiety or stress. Stress in cats may come from different factors. Changes at home, for example, can stress your cat out. Fear and pain can also be a source of your cat’s stress. According to a study at Oregon State University, cats are attached to their owners and depend on them for security. So, your cat’s gesture of licking your nose may relieve itself from anxiety through the security it feels from your presence.
Your cat may want to connect with you by licking your nose. Just like how their mothers licked them when they were young. Your cat is just strengthening the bond between you. Licking your nose makes them feel secure about your relationship as a family. Licking is a social tradition among cats. Think of it as their way of saying, “hey, I like you, and I want us to be friends or family.”
Your cat licks your nose probably to get your attention, especially if you are doing something. If you notice that your kitty does this gesture when you’re busy, then you know why. They might want something from you like food, water, a toy, affection, or maybe just undivided attention. It’s difficult to ignore your kitty when they are annoyingly licking your nose. But, this is just a perfect example of how intelligent cats can be in getting what they want.
Your cat is licking your nose because it also wants to groom you. Grooming is a common cleaning exercise in cats. But also, it can be a way of distinguishing strangers. Cats belonging to the same household or colony groom each other to exchange scents. So, they’ll share a common scent that marks them as a family member. Since you are also a member, they tend to do this ritual to mark you with their scent.
Marking Its Territory
Licking leaves your cat’s saliva and scent on surfaces. This marking is your cat’s way of letting other animals know of its territory. A mother cat licks its kittens to leave her scent on them to let other cats know they belong to her. So, your cat may also be licking your nose to mark you as theirs. This happens often after you pet another animal and they feel jealous after smelling a different scent from you.
If you’re feeling a bit down, you may notice your cat licking your nose. This could be its way of soothing you from the stressful situation you are in. A study done at the University of Bari, Italy revealed that cats can recognize human emotions from people close to them. The study compared a cat’s vocalization as a reaction to the pictures of emotional faces. But beyond the visuals, cats may even feel your energy, that is why your kitty tries to cheer you up by licking your nose.
Sometimes it may be hard to decode a cat’s actions. But in this case, it isn’t too difficult to assume that they lick their owner’s noses to show affection. Whether you approve of the gesture or not, you should be flattered by your kitty’s effort to show their fondness and even trust in you.
Showing Family Ties
As previously mentioned, grooming is a social behavior within a family or colony of cats. They don’t just aim to clean each other through grooming but also to exchange scents. This blend of different scents creates a common scent that distinguishes you as a member. As your cat licks your nose, it may just be grooming you and letting you know you are family.
You may notice that your cat licks your nose when you’re stroking them. This is its way of expressing approval of the action. It also wants you to stroke or pet more as it’s probably a soothing feeling for your kitty. So, your cat wants to say thank you for your gesture.
In certain cases, cats lick their owner’s noses to show respect. This usually happens in a household with more than one cat. They understand that you are at the top of the hierarchy. So, they lick your nose to express submission.
Tasting Your Skin
Our sweat is salty and our noses are notorious for getting sweaty all the time. So, when your cat licks your nose, it may taste your salty sweat. When you just finished cooking or eating a sumptuous meal, this even makes it more enticing for your kitty. Now, it’s not just your sweat, but also the aroma of the food you just had. Cats have a better sense of smell than us, so they easily can get glued to the delicious scent.
Tasting Your Tears
In addition to sweat, tears are also salty. When you cry, the tears run down your nose, leaving some salty residue. Your cat likes this salty taste which is probably why it loves to lick your nose, and maybe even other parts of your face where the tears fell, too.
To Show That They Care
We now know that cats first experienced licking from their mother. Licking is their mother’s way of taking care of them. As the cat mother licks the kittens, she cleans them, stimulates them to nurse, or expel waste. So, in a cat’s mind, licking is a sign of care. And since you are family, they want to show you they care for you, too.
To Show Their Love
The most relatable reason why your cat licks your nose is to show its love for you. Similar to how humans kiss each other on the lips, nose, or forehead, cats express love by licking your nose. You’ll notice that they lick you after you pet them as a form of appreciation. So, even if it may feel a bit icky, you should see it as a compliment as your cat letting you feel its love for you.
Should You Stop Your Cat From Licking Your Nose?
However sweet the gesture may be, cats licking your nose may not always be a nice feeling. Cats’ tongues have a rough texture due to papillae. These barb-shaped protrusions help cats separate the muscles and tendons from their prey’s bones. These spikes in their tongue also help them perfect their grooming. They act as detanglers in case their fur gets knotted.
So, knowing that it may be uncomfortable, choosing to stop your cat from licking your nose is really up to you. If you prefer to prevent your cat from licking your nose, start redirecting it every time it is about to go near your face to do the gesture. They love to play, so distract your kitty by engaging them with toys so they’ll forget their intentions on your nose.
If your cat licked your nose, calmly put your kitty down and ignore it for a few minutes to send the message that you don’t approve of the gesture. If your cat shows the behavior you want, praise and reward it occasionally with treats for positive reinforcement.
Never punish your cat roughly when it licks your nose. Your cat just wants to express affection. So, being rude and mean to it confuses it and may even cause stress.
We found the answers to cat parents’ common question, “ why does my cat like to lick my nose”. There can be many reasons, but most are just expressions of love and affection from your cat. It may be awkward or uncomfortable for you, but your kitty may be just sending you cat kisses.