Why Does My Cat Lick My Nose and What Does It Mean?

Cats can have a range of fascinating behaviors that we cat owners experience. One of the stranger ones may be their habit of licking your nose when they are up close.

With that rough tongue, this isn’t always the nicest experience! But why does your cat lick your nose, and what does it mean?

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Sign of Affection

The most common reason why a cat might lick your nose is a simple sign of affection. Mother cats spend a lot of their time licking their kittens, partly to keep them clean and to form a strong bond with them and show them affection.

Kittens grow into adult cats who repeat this behavior, but we humans can be the family members who receive the affection instead of other cats. 

This means it is a good thing and a sign of love, even if the experience of a cat’s tongue on your nose isn’t the most pleasant!

Cat licking the side of a man's face

Social Bonding

Cats form social bonds with other cats, and you will often see them licking each other. Sometimes this is to help with grooming as they are very clean animals.

But most of the time, it shows another feline friend that they are part of the same social group. This same behavior can be seen as the cat’s way of including you in their social group.

Helping You Keep Clean

You probably don’t need the help, but your cat may often give you a nose lick to help you keep clean!

Don’t worry; it doesn’t mean you have something on your face but simply that you are part of the family from their viewpoint, and they are helping you with basic care.

They will also usually aim for areas of skin instead of where your clothes are, so the face and hands are two of the most common areas to receive cleaning assistance.

Natural Salts

While there are various reasons for nose licking, one may be as simple as having natural salts on your face, which are tasty to cats.

While the human nose has no idea the salts are there, domestic cats have a far better sense of smell than we do.

As we sweat, the moisture evaporates, but tiny particles of natural salts are left on the skin. Cats enjoy these, so they often lick you to enjoy the salts and help you keep clean.

Marking Their Property

Cats mark their property in a variety of ways, and one of them can be to lick things. They may then use the scent glands in their faces to scent you, effectively telling other cats that you are theirs and to keep away.

This is normal behavior for indoor and outdoor cats, similar to them rubbing your leg or a piece of furniture.

They Feel Comforted

Cats love to be groomed and to groom themselves and others.

So you will often find that they will groom you because they feel comforted and enjoy it, as well as thinking that you will too.

Pet owners must deal with some interesting behaviors to keep their pets happy!

Adult cat licking a kitten

They Need to Calm Down

In a similar way to being comforted, cats sometimes lick things to help them calm down. This can be your face, themselves, the floor, or other things around the house.

If this happens often and there’s excessive licking, you should consider possible reasons.

Stress is common, especially if something new in the house, such as another pet or new human arrival.

Then you can help them deal with the cause of the stress and avoid problems such as excessive grooming.

They Want Attention

Cats have different ways of grabbing your attention. Often, they vocalize in different ways depending on what they want.

If you are holding them or they are at the right height, they will sometimes lick your nose to grab your attention – and it works too! Sometimes it is a love bite, like a paw tap.

Can You Stop Your Cat Licking Your Nose?

While there’s no doubt that nose licking is a normal behavior for a cat, not all people like the sensation. So what can you do to persuade them to stop without causing other problems?

If you notice they are approaching you and would usually lick your nose at this point, use some loud noises to attract their attention away from your face.

Do this before they lick your nose, which can be the best way to get their attention elsewhere. You can even bring some toys or a laser pen to get their attention.

However, ensure you don’t introduce the toys or other distractions after the nose licking. Otherwise, they will see that licking your nose is an excellent idea because something fun happens afterward.

Avoid pushing them away roughly or otherwise punishing them for what is a display of affection. Even your body language should be calm and pleasant, or you could end up with signs of stress from your cat whenever they approach any human companions.

What is Excessive Licking?

Cats lick a lot, and this is perfectly natural. As cat parents, expect to see a lot of grooming, sometimes involving an owner’s nose. But what about if there’s an excessive amount of grooming happening?

Overgrooming is the term used, and it tends to apply to the cat instead of another pet or a human. A cat behavior expert will tell you that there are many reasons for it, and it will often result in bald spots or poor fur conditions.

Tortoiseshell cat licking their paw while sitting on a stone wall

It is essential to establish the leading cause of overgrooming or excessive licking and get some advice if you need clarification on what it is.

Feline behavior is complicated, and if you notice wet or bald patches or licking that goes beyond a demonstration of affection, get a vet to look at your pet.

Final Thoughts on Why Your Cat Licks Your Nose

In most cases, nose licking is learned from momma cats and passed to their offspring, who then practice it on whoever is around.

So that often means the human member of their family that they are closest to!

It is rarely something to worry about as a sign of affection, but there are ways to discourage it if you aren’t a fan. Otherwise, enjoy your cat’s affection and a slightly damp nose regularly!

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