Does your cat lick your toes? Mine does, too! Don’t worry; it’s normal behavior, and there are cats licking toes all over the globe!
Your cat may be licking your toes for several reasons, and you don’t need to worry about any of them. In fact, it’s not a sign of poor health or that anything is wrong at all. It’s a good sign!
There are seven specific reasons cats lick human toes: It’s a grooming instinct; they want to bond with you and show affection; they’re marking their territory; they’re looking for attention; they’re attracted to your sweat; they’re calming themselves down; or they like the smell or taste of your lotion.
Keep reading to learn more about why cats lick their human’s toes.
1. Grooming Instinct
The grooming instinct comes naturally to almost all mammals. We need to groom ourselves and each other to keep clean and hygienic. We use washcloths, soap, and various tools to do the job.
Of course, cats don’t have opposable thumbs and hair brushes to groom their coats, but they do have a built-in brush on their tongue. Their tongue is covered in thousands of tiny hollow spines called “papillae.” These papillae perform many functions, from grooming to enabling your cat to drink without suction.
Cats use their tongues to brush through their fur, removing dirt and coating their hair in saliva to keep clean and cool down. To your cat, you’re just a big, strangely shaped cat they love and need to care for.
Therefore, your cat grooms you because you’re both mammals and part of their family. If you want to know why cats become attached to their humans, check out our article.
2. Bonding Instinct
Think of how you hug a friend, stroke a loved one’s hair, or hold hands; these are all physical expressions and acts to show affection and affirm your bonds. For your cat, licking provides the same kind of bonding feeling.
Cats lick each other to show affection and lick their owners for the same reason. If your cat is licking your toes, they may be telling you they love you in a way that makes sense to them. However, if you try licking them back, they may not react positively.
But why lick your toes specifically? Well, it could be the place on your body they can reach that’s not covered with clothing at the moment. Or, your toes smell much more like you and less like lotions and perfumes, which could be off-putting for your cat.
3. Attraction To Your Sweat
When humans sweat, we often do it through our feet. Much of our sweat is made of salt, which all mammals need. Farmers will put salt blocks in their fields for their livestock to lick.
Your cat may be licking your feet simply because your toes are salty and taste…good?
Does your cat lick your palms and neck, too? That may be confirmation they are looking for more salt in their diet. You may consider adding a supplement that contains sodium to your cat’s diet and see if it makes a difference to their toe-licking behavior.
What’s the first thing you do when your cat licks your toes? You react, right? They remember that when they lick your toes, you make a funny sound and either rub them with your feet or pick them up and give them a cuddle.
If this behavior has worked in the past to get your attention, why would they change it? Cats are quirky and will choose the strangest behaviors to get your attention and affection, including, but not limited to, giving your toes a little lick. But don’t worry, they will only seek your attention if they love you!
5. Marking Territory
Cats have scent glands in their mouths. By licking your feet, they are marking their territory. Take this as a compliment! If they are scent-marking you, it tells other animals that you belong to your cat’s family and they love you.
It could also indicate that your cat thinks you belong to it, not vice versa!
6. Calming Themselves Down
Licking is a calming activity; it reminds your cat of kittenhood and helps settle them. If your cat feels nervous, anxious, or overstimulated, they may intentionally lick your feet to calm themselves down.
However, if your cat gets overstimulated while doing this, it may trigger some feet biting instead of feet licking, which isn’t all that pleasant.
7. Tasty Or Good-Smelling Feet
Cats have an amazing sense of smell and can pick up interesting or distasteful scents in your lotions, creams, deodorants, and hairsprays. Check out some other extraordinary superpowers cats have in our article.
You may have lotion on your feet that actually smells or tastes yummy to your cat. Many cat owners report that their cats go crazy licking their hands and feet when they put on lotion containing vitamin E oil. For some reason, cats like the flavor of vitamin E oil and will lick your feet for the taste.
Also, if your lotion has some herbal scents or flavorings, this may attract your cat. Catnip, the infamous herb that makes cats “high,” comes from the mint family. You’d smell a distinctly minty scent if you rubbed a catnip leaf. Therefore, any minty-smelling lotions could attract your cat for the same reason.
FAQs About Cats Licking Feet
How can I stop my cat from licking my feet?
If you’re extra ticklish or your cat licking your feet just isn’t your thing, you can do a couple of things to prevent them from doing it.
- Put on socks. Your cat won’t lick your feet if covered by socks because the cat’s papillae would get caught on the threads.
- Move your cat away from your feet when they lick them, but don’t pay any further attention to them.
- Put lotion on your feet with a strong citrus scent/flavor. However, avoid using straight essential oils as they can damage the tender skin on your feet and toes.
Is it safe for my cat to lick my feet?
This is an excellent question. Cats groom themselves and lick their behinds, so it should be safe to lick a human’s foot, right?
Yes and no. Yes, it’s safe if your feet are clean or you’ve just been walking around the house. However, if you’ve been barefoot in a place where there are other animals, like a park, give your feet a good cleaning before letting your cat lick them.
Additionally, if you have athlete’s foot or another foot fungus or bacteria, then allowing your cat to lick your feet is not healthy or safe.
If you’re worried your cat has licked an unsanitary foot, you can give them a quick tooth brushing. Find out how to care for your cat’s dental health in our guide.
Let’s Wrap Up On Why Cats Lick Their Human’s Feet
Cats lick their human’s toes for a variety of reasons. However, none of the reasons is cause for concern, and you don’t need to worry.
Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior, such as when and how frequently they lick your toes; it may be after every shower (they like the water), after a long gym session (they want the salt from sweat), or after you put lotion on (yummy vitamin E).
Taking note of when your cat licks your toes may give you an indication of why they’re doing it.
To recap, here’s the list of why cats may lick their human’s toes:
- Your cat is grooming you like they would another cat.
- Your cat is showing you affection and bonding with you by licking.
- Your cat is attracted to your sweat because it’s salty.
- Your cat knows you react when they lick your feet and seek your attention.
- Your cat is marking its territory by scenting you with the glands in its mouth.
- Your cat may be trying to calm down through licking; your feet just happen to be the closest target.
- Something in your lotion smells or tastes good to your cat.
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