What does it mean when cats lick dogs?

For people who have never experienced living in a peaceful household with both a cat and a dog, it must be hard to imagine that they’ll actually get along.  The stereotypical image that comes to our heads when someone says “cats and dogs” is a cat being chased by a dog, or even a cat swatting at the dog who just wants to play.

However, it is more than possible for cats and dogs to live harmoniously together.  At the very least, they’ll tolerate the existence of the other, and in the best cases, they’ll be friends for life.

Sometimes when a cat and a dog are snuggling up together, you may notice your cat doing something peculiar to your dog — your cat licking them!  Don’t worry, that’s nothing to worry about.  Today, let’s talk about exactly why your cat is licking your dog.

Start them young

Shortly after they’re born, mama cats will lick their kittens, and will continually do so many many times in your cat’s early life.  It is instilled in cats at a very young age that the way mamas are supposed to take care of their young is to make sure their babies are nice and clean.


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If you so happen to adopt a puppy, your adult female cat may start to act motherly to your young pup.  As far as how cat and dog relationships go, this is a very good sign.

A sense of belonging

A cat’s world is all about smells. They have an extremely sensitive nose that they use to not only identify if something is edible or not, but also to know if something or someone belongs to them or to another cat.

When cats decide that something belongs to them, they like to envelop it with their smell — and the best way to do that is to lick.

If you notice that your cat is licking your new dog, take this as a sign that they are welcoming the new pup into the household.  Cats lick those they confidently call their own — and yes, including humans.  When our cats lick us, it’s them saying that we belong to them, and they’re right!

Next to godliness

Cat licking, while truthfully annoying in excess, is one of the ways our feline companions express their love and affection.  When our cats lick our dogs (and us, occasionally), they’re grooming them.

Grooming, for cats, are of the utmost importance.  Not only does it keep their fur shiny and healthy, it also keeps them much less stinky.  In the wild, not being smelly is greatly advantageous for the cat’s ancestors as the smells could clue in both prey and predators on their location.

When our feline overlords bless us and our dogs with the kiss of their sandpaper-like tongues, they’re not only letting us know that we are loved, but also that we are safe and taken care of.  If you ever catch your cat extending this gesture of love to your new dog, rest easy that your cat has fully accepted them not just in their household, but also in their hearts.

Common questions about cat licks

Why do cats groom themselves so often?

Cats are self-cleaning animals.  If you happen to own a cat, it’s so common to see them lounging about and really taking the time to groom themselves.  Cats actually can take up to 50% of their waking hours just licking themselves clean.

There’s a bunch of reasons why cats are so obsessed about cleanliness.

  1. It’s a way to clean wounds.  It’s not uncommon for cats to hurt themselves or even each other (especially when they don’t belong in a household).  Cleaning their injuries lessen the possibility of their wounds getting infected.
  2. Clean cats are safer.  In the wild, cats are both prey and predator.  They have to constantly make sure that their predators cannot track them through scent.
  3. Grooming makes their fur healthier.  When cats groom themselves, they’re removing dead skin cells, sebum, dirt, and even parasites that are stuck in their skin and fur.
  4. It feels good.  Grooming simply feels really nice — especially because cats can’t sweat.  Spreading their saliva all over their body will keep them cool down on warmer days.

Why is my cat’s tongue so rough?

For those of us who have pretty sensitive skin, the roughness might be surprising. Cats tongues feel like sandpaper. The reason cats tongues feel so rough is because their tongues are completely covered with tiny backward-facing spines called filiform papillae.

What are those papillae for?

  1. It’s a tiny comb for them to use for grooming. Those tiny spines help distribute their saliva through all their layers of fur down to their skin.
  2. It’s also a great tool for scraping off the remaining meat on animal bones.

Conclusion

When cats lick dogs or anyone else for that matter, as long as it is not in excess, there’s nothing to worry about.  Licking and grooming their loved ones is one of the many ways cats show their appreciation and devotion.

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