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Why Does My Cat Lick My Nose: 9 Possible Reasons for this Behavior

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

cat licking woman's ear

Cats have all sorts of strange habits. In some cases, one of them may be licking your nose. Not all cats do it, but for those that do, it can be very confusing for their owners. Normally, licking is a good thing and a sign of friendship—at least for dogs.

However, do cats feel the same about licking? What does it mean when a cat takes a liking to their owner’s nose? There are several reasons that this behavior might occur, and we’ll look at all of them below.

The 9 Reasons Cat Licks Your Nose

1. Attention

Cats often lick for attention. If they want to be petted or need your attention for another purpose (like filling up their food bowl), some cats will lick you. Of course, this varies from feline to feline, and it seems to be a personality trait of only a few cats.

It is possible that the cats once licked you for a different reason but then realized that it got your attention. Cats are very smart and will learn to get your attention in many ways based on your reactions.

If you continue to give your cat attention when they lick your nose, you reinforce their behavior.

cat licking the face of bearded man
Image Credit: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock

2. Taste

We aren’t saying your cat has suddenly decided that human flesh is tasty. Instead, many people use lotion and other products on their faces. Some cats find the products quite tasty. Some brands even include animal-based products, which cats may find especially appetizing.

Therefore, if your feline has discovered your lotion is tasty, they may decide to lick it off of your nose regularly. In that case, you may notice that your cat licks other parts of your body where the lotion is used.

They may also be interested in other cosmetics, such as those used in your hair. Many cats that like the taste of lotions also like the flavor of shampoos. Be careful not to allow them to ingest a substantial amount of these products, which could cause stomach upset or worse.

3. Affection

Just like dogs, cats can also lick you to display affection. This trait seems to be much less common in cats than dogs, however. Only some cats display the trait, which seems particularly common in certain breeds.

Often, this becomes a habit that occurs in kittenhood. Some felines that were taken from their mother too young may be more prone to licking since it is associated more with kittens than adults.

If one of your cats doesn’t lick your nose, it isn’t that they love you any less. It just may not be a personality trait that they have.

cat licking man's side hair
Image Credit: Kasefoto, Shutterstock

4. Social Bonding

Social grooming is widespread amongst cats. It is one of the ways that cats mix their scents, which helps them identify each other later on. Cats ID one another primarily through smell. So, if one cat is gone for a while and has a change of scent, they may not be recognizable to their old friends.

This commonly occurs amongst littermates. If they are not kept together, they will not recognize each other later in most cases. As you can see, scent is essential for feline relationships. Therefore, social grooming is pretty vital, too.

While this behavior is pretty standard between cats, it is not necessarily always that common for cats to groom their humans. However, some cats develop the habit. And, sometimes, your nose may be their target.

In a way, this sort of grooming is a type of affection. Your cat considers you a member of their family and wants to mix your scents together. However, because the behavior is rare, you don’t have to worry if your cat doesn’t lick you.

5. Anxiety

Cats are sensitive creatures. They can become anxious very easily and not always for reasons that we readily understand. For instance, a very small change in routine can be a big deal for many cats. Cats can also become anxious due to a change in food, furniture, and even smells. In other words, if you change your shampoo, it could stress your cat out.

However, most cats handle the stress in a healthy manner and adjust within a few days. Some cats may have an overly anxious reaction to the changes, which can cause unhealthy behaviors like overgrooming.

Sometimes, this can cause a cat to lick you more than usual. Because your nose sticks out, it is an easy target for stress-induced behavior. Cats who lick your nose, for this reason, are likely difficult to distract and may seem very insistent on the behavior. Usually, they will also show other signs of stress.

cat licking man's ear
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

6. Marking Territory

Like social grooming, cats may lick you to leave their scent behind, indicating that you are theirs. However, it is quite uncommon. Instead, cats are more likely to rub you with the scent glands in their cheeks and paws.

Often, licking you is also stress-induced. When cats feel like their lives are out of control, they will often try to control what they can, which usually leads to them marking their territory.

You may also notice other territory-marking behaviors, such as scratching on furniture and inappropriate urination. Furthermore, other stress-related signs can develop, such as excessive grooming or changes in appetite.

7. Cleaning

Cats lick their fur to clean it. Therefore, if they think your nose is dirty, they may attempt to clean it by licking it as well. This behavior is often related to social grooming, which we discussed previously.

However, it has to do more with getting you clean than it does mixing scents. Your nose probably isn’t dirty, of course. Many cats can interpret cosmetics and lotions as dirt, which may prompt them to clean them off.

cat licking woman's ear
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

8. Habit

Some cats begin licking your nose for one of the reasons above, but then it evolves into a habit. If you do not stop your cat from licking, they will likely keep doing it. Habits can develop very quickly. If you don’t want your cat licking your nose, you must stop it quickly and efficiently.

Cats are creatures of habit. If any of the previous reasons persist for long enough, it can quickly lead to the development of a habit, which can be challenging to correct.

9. For Salt

All creatures need salt to survive. It is a requirement, just like water. Without it, your body cannot transfer water between cells and organs, which will eventually lead to death. For this reason, most animals crave salt, including cats.

When you sweat, salt is left behind on the surface of your skin. If your cat notices, they may find it irresistible and lick it off. You’ll notice if this is the case because cats will typically lick after you’ve worked out and lick any sweaty piece of skin that they have access to—not just your nose.

Usually, it is not a sign of a nutritional deficiency. Some cats just love salt. However, it can be on occasion. If it occurs often enough, it may be a sign of pica.


Cats lick your nose for all sorts of reasons. For instance, your feline may start licking for anxiety-related reasons, but it may become a habit. Or, your cat may lick your nose for the salts but then realize that they like the taste of your lotion.

Either way, your cat licking your nose isn’t typically a bad thing. Most cats lick for entirely benign reasons. Often, the behavior may stop on its own after a time.

Featured Image Credit: NivCube, Shutterstock

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