Why Does My Cat Lick Himself After I Pet Him?

Have you ever wondered why your cat starts licking itself after you give them a good petting session? It’s almost as if they’re trying to tell you something, right? Well, fear not, because this quirky behavior is actually quite common among our feline friends.

Cats are famously fastidious creatures and take pride in their grooming habits. So, it’s no surprise that they would take the opportunity for a quick clean whenever they can. But there’s more to it than just staying clean. When cats interact with each other, they often groom each other as a sign of affection and to mark their territory with their scent. So when you pet your cat, you’re essentially giving them the same kind of attention they would receive from another cat. Therefore, it’s natural for them to respond by grooming themselves.

However, there could be other reasons besides affection and marking territory that might be driving your cat to lick itself after being petted. Stress, anxiety or even some medical issues could also be at play here. Understanding why your cat is engaging in this behavior can give you valuable insight into their overall health and well-being.

So next time your furry friend starts licking themselves after a good petting session, don’t worry. They’re just communicating with you in their own special way. And now that you know what could be causing this behavior, you can rest easy knowing that your feline friend is happy and healthy.

What is the Behavior?

Firstly, grooming is an innate and essential part of a cat’s behavior. It helps them regulate their body temperature, maintain hygiene, and bond with other cats. When we pet our cats, we transfer our scent and oils from our skin onto their fur, which can be itchy or uncomfortable for them. Licking themselves after being petted helps to remove these unwanted sensations and restore their natural scent.

Moreover, licking can also be a coping mechanism for cats dealing with stress or anxiety. While being petted can be a soothing experience for some cats, it can also be overstimulating or overwhelming for others. Licking themselves afterward can help them self-soothe and calm down.

Another reason why cats lick themselves after being petted is related to their instinctual behavior. In the wild, cats groom each other as a way to establish dominance and social bonding within their group. By licking themselves after being petted, cats may be exhibiting similar behavior and asserting their dominance over their owner.

It’s worth noting that excessive licking can be a sign of underlying health issues or emotional distress in cats. If you see your cat excessively licking himself or displaying other signs of stress, such as hiding or avoiding interaction, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian.

Natural Instincts

After indulging them with a good petting session, it’s not unusual to see them immediately start licking themselves. But have you ever wondered why they do this? The answer lies in their natural instincts.

Cats are known for their fastidiousness when it comes to cleanliness and hygiene. Licking themselves is just one of the ways they take care of themselves. When we stroke our cats, we transfer our scent and oils onto their fur, which can sometimes cause discomfort or itchiness. By licking themselves, cats are getting rid of any foreign scents or dirt that may have been transferred onto their fur.

However, it’s not just about cleanliness. Cats have scent glands all over their bodies, including on their paws and face. By distributing their own scent back onto their fur after being petted, they create a sense of comfort and security for themselves. This is because they are surrounding themselves with familiar scents.

It’s worth noting that cats are creatures of habit. If they’ve developed the habit of licking themselves after being petted, they may continue to do so even when there is no external stimulus present. Additionally, cats may also lick themselves as a way to self-soothe and alleviate stress or anxiety.

While excessive licking may indicate underlying health issues or emotional distress, it’s generally not a cause for concern. As responsible pet owners, it’s important to monitor our cats’ behavior and seek veterinary advice if we notice any changes in their grooming habits.

To summarize, the natural instinctual behavior of cats licking themselves after being petted is rooted in their need for cleanliness and security. As cat owners, we can take solace in knowing that our pets are simply following their natural instincts and taking care of themselves in the best way they know how.

Grooming Habits

From licking themselves after being petted to meticulously cleaning their paws, grooming is essential to a cat’s well-being. Not only does it keep their coat clean and healthy, but it also helps regulate body temperature and reduce stress levels.

When a cat is petted, it can be a pleasurable experience for them. However, the physical stimulation can also create a buildup of static electricity in their fur, causing discomfort on their skin. That’s where the self-licking comes in handy. By smoothing down their fur with their tongue, they can reduce any irritation caused by static electricity.

But why do cats feel the need to groom themselves after being petted? Well, our feline friends have an acute sense of smell and rely on it heavily to navigate their surroundings. When they’re petted, they may pick up foreign scents from the person who petted them. By licking themselves, cats can remove any unfamiliar odor and maintain their own scent, which is important for marking territory and reducing potential threats from other animals.

It’s important to note that excessive grooming after being petted could be a sign of an underlying health issue such as skin allergies or parasites. If you notice your cat licking themselves excessively at any time, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any potential concerns.

Stress Relief

As an expert in stress relief, let me tell you that this behavior is actually a sign of relaxation and stress relief for your feline companion.

Cats are known for their love of routine and habit, and any disruption to this can cause them to feel anxious and stressed out. When your cat is feeling overwhelmed or anxious, they will often turn to self-grooming behaviors like licking themselves to help soothe their nerves and calm down.

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But it’s not just about stress relief – cats are also known for their cleanliness and may feel the need to groom themselves after human contact to remove any scents or oils left behind by our hands. It’s their way of maintaining their own scent and keeping their territory safe from potential threats.

As a pet owner, it’s essential to recognize the signs of stress in your cat and provide them with a safe, comfortable environment that promotes relaxation. This can include creating a consistent routine, offering plenty of toys and activities to prevent boredom, and providing opportunities for social interaction.

However, it’s crucial to keep an eye on excessive grooming behavior, which could be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as allergies or skin irritation. If you notice your cat excessively licking themselves, it’s best to take them to the vet for a check-up.

Unfamiliar Scents

Well, it could be due to unfamiliar scents. Cats are creatures of habit and routine, so when they encounter strange smells, it can cause them to feel stressed or anxious. Their solution? Self-grooming.

There are several reasons why your cat may encounter unfamiliar scents after being petted. For instance, if you’ve been handling other animals or objects with distinct smells before interacting with your cat, they may pick up on those foreign scents on your hands or clothing. Additionally, if you’ve recently moved into a new home or brought in new furniture or decor, this can also introduce unfamiliar scents that may trigger your cat’s self-grooming behavior.

As cat owners, it’s crucial to be mindful of the scents we bring into our homes and how we interact with our pets after coming into contact with them. To minimize the introduction of unfamiliar scents, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before engaging with your cat. You can also provide familiar scents around the house such as blankets or toys that have your cat’s scent on them. This will help reduce stress levels and prevent excessive self-grooming behavior.

It’s essential to keep an eye on your cat’s grooming behavior, as excessive licking could be a sign of an underlying medical issue. However, by taking these simple steps, we can help our feline friends feel comfortable and relaxed in their own home.

Establishing Dominance

From their natural habitat to their domestic lives, cats have a hierarchical structure where the strongest and most dominant cat rules the group. This behavior often carries over to their interactions with their owners.

Have you ever noticed your cat licking themselves after you pet them? Don’t worry, it’s not because they’re angry or aggressive towards you. It’s actually a way for them to establish dominance and show that they’re in control. This behavior is completely natural for cats and can vary from one feline to another based on their personalities and past experiences.

For example, a cat who has had multiple owners may feel more inclined to establish dominance in order to assert their place in the household. As an owner, it’s important to understand and respect your cat’s need for dominance by avoiding behaviors that can be seen as threatening or aggressive such as looming over them or staring directly into their eyes.

By acknowledging and respecting your cat’s natural instincts and behaviors, you can ensure that they feel secure and happy in their home. So, whether you’re showering your furry friend with love or giving them some personal space, remember that establishing dominance is an important aspect of a cat’s social behavior.

Is This Normal?

Well, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

You see, grooming is a natural behavior for cats. They have tiny hooks on their tongue that help them remove loose fur and debris from their coat. So, if you notice your feline friend licking himself after a petting session, it could just be his way of tidying up his fur.

However, excessive licking can also be a sign of anxiety or stress in cats. If your cat is feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable with the petting, he may turn to excessive licking as a coping mechanism. This behavior is especially common in cats who are sensitive to touch or who have had negative experiences with petting in the past.

But not all excessive licking is bad news. Some cats simply enjoy the taste or sensation of human skin and will lick themselves after being petted as a way to savor the experience. This behavior isn’t necessarily harmful and doesn’t indicate any underlying issues.

So what should you do if you’re worried about your cat’s excessive licking behavior? Firstly, consult with your veterinarian for advice and guidance. They can help determine if there is an underlying health issue or if your cat’s behavior is normal.

In addition, it’s important to pay attention to your cat’s body language and respect their boundaries. Cats have a natural hierarchical structure where dominance is key, and excessive petting or threatening behaviors can make them feel uncomfortable or anxious. By acknowledging their instinctual behavior and avoiding behaviors that may make them feel threatened, you can help your cat feel more comfortable and secure.

To sum up, while excessive licking after being petted can sometimes indicate an underlying issue such as anxiety or stress, it’s often just a normal grooming behavior for cats. By paying attention to your cat’s behavior and consulting with your veterinarian if you have any concerns, you can ensure that your feline friend is happy and healthy. Remember, a well-groomed cat is a happy cat.

When to Worry

Excessive licking can be a cause for concern, and it’s essential to recognize when to worry and when not to.

Firstly, let’s talk about the duration of licking. If your cat licks itself for a short period after being petted, there’s no need to worry. It’s a sign of affection and contentment. However, if your cat continues to lick itself excessively, leaving bald spots or skin irritation, there could be an underlying problem.

Secondly, let’s consider the reasons behind excessive licking. Anxiety and stress are common causes, especially in cats that are prone to these issues or have experienced a change in their environment. Allergies or skin irritations can also drive cats to over-groom themselves. Fleas or mites can cause discomfort, leading cats to lick themselves excessively. And medical issues such as urinary tract infections may cause pain or discomfort and result in excessive grooming.

Thirdly, watch out for changes in your cat’s behavior. If your feline friend suddenly starts excessively licking itself after being petted, it could indicate discomfort or pain. It’s crucial to monitor your cat’s behavior and take note of any changes.


In conclusion, the act of cats licking themselves after being petted is a completely normal and instinctive behavior. Our feline friends are meticulous creatures that take great pride in their grooming habits, and when we pet them, we transfer our scent onto their fur. This can cause discomfort or itchiness for them, prompting them to lick themselves to restore their natural scent.

However, excessive licking can be a red flag for potential health issues or emotional distress in cats. Stress, allergies, skin irritations, fleas or mites, and medical conditions such as urinary tract infections may trigger excessive grooming behavior. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep an eye on your cat’s habits and seek professional help if you notice any changes.

Understanding why your cat engages in this behavior can offer valuable insights into their overall health and well-being. As responsible pet owners, it’s important to respect our cats’ natural instincts by avoiding aggressive behaviors that can make them feel uncomfortable or anxious.

By acknowledging our furry companions’ needs for cleanliness, security, stress relief, and dominance assertion through self-grooming behavior after being petted or in general situations in life can ensure that they feel content and happy in their home.