Pet Behavior

Why Do Dogs and Cats Lick You?


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 Many pet parents believe their dogs and cats lick them to show love, and this may be true some of the time, there are also many other functions of licking dogs and cats. Both dogs and cats lick humans for a variety of reasons, and their motivations can vary based on the individual animal and the context.

Dogs Learn to Lick as Puppies

Mother dogs lick their pups to clean and stimulate them as they are born. For the first few weeks of their life, puppies are prompted to urinate and defecate by their mom’s licking and smelling. So, dogs learn very early that tongues are useful tools in communicating and interacting with the environment around them and adopt the environmental factors.

Pets Lick People to Enhance Smell

Licking also enhances your pet’s sense of smell. Like humans, dogs and cats can taste bitter, salty, sweet, and sour. But due to their small number of taste buds, they actually use their sense of smell far more than their sense of taste when deciding what to lick or eat.


  1. Affection and Bonding: Dogs often lick their owners as a way to show affection and strengthen their bond. Licking is a behavior reminiscent of how puppies show love to their mothers.
  2. Grooming Instinct: Dogs have a natural instinct to groom themselves and their pack members. When they lick you, they might be expressing their desire to care for you and establish their role in the “pack.”
  3. Social Interaction: Dogs are social animals, and they use licking as a form of communication. They might lick you to initiate interaction, seek attention, or convey their happiness at being near you.
  4. Taste and Exploration: Dogs experience the world through their senses, including taste. They might lick you to explore your scent, taste, or any residues on your skin, such as food or sweat.
  5. Submission: Licking can also be a submissive gesture. In a social pack setting, lower-ranking dogs might lick higher-ranking ones as a sign of respect or submission.
  6. Stress Relief: Dogs may lick themselves or their owners when they’re feeling stressed or anxious as a self-soothing behavior.


  1. Affection: Cats lick their owners to show affection and closeness. They might lick your hands, face, or hair to demonstrate their love and bond with you.
  2. Grooming: Cats are meticulous groomers, and they may see you as part of their “clan” that needs grooming. Licking you is a way to care for you, similar to how they groom themselves and other cats.
  3. Marking Territory: Cats have scent glands in their mouths, and licking you can be a way for them to mark you as part of their territory or family.
  4. Social Bonding: Cats lick each other to establish and maintain social bonds within their feline family. Licking you might be an extension of this behavior, signifying that you’re part of their social circle.
  5. Exploration: Cats have a strong sense of smell and might lick you to explore different scents, especially if they detect something interesting on your skin.
  6. Comfort and Calming: Like dogs, cats may also lick as a way to self-soothe when they’re feeling anxious or stressed.



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