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Why Does My Cat Lick the Wall? 5 Vet-Approved Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

portrait of tabby white british shorthair cat with its tongue out doing a lick

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As a cat owner, you know that your cat uses their tongue to clean themselves and to lap up water. But when you see them licking a wall, you may wonder what the heck is going on because it seems pointless for a cat to lick a wall.

So, what is going on with your cat? Should you be concerned? There are some possible explanations for this odd behavior, and we’ll cover them below. Here are five possible reasons why your cat may be licking a wall.

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The 5 Likely Reasons That Cats Lick Walls

1. They Think the Wall Is Tasty

portrait of tabby cat licking its lips
Image Credit: hannadarzy, Shutterstock

Maybe your cat is licking a wall because they like the taste. Paints, glues, wood treatments, and varnishes can taste good to cats. Maybe the wall even smells good to your cat, and they can’t resist giving it a few good licks.

You don’t have to worry if your cat is randomly licking a varnished wall now and then. However, if they do it all the time, you need to stop them. Varnish can be harmful if consumed. If need be, remove your cat from the room and close the door behind you so they can’t get back in to continue their licking behavior.


2. They May Find the Texture Appealing

A textured wall can be appealing to a cat wherein they will lick and paw at it for fun. If your cat isn’t getting enough exercise, playtime, or mental stimulation, they may lick and paw at a textured wall for some entertainment. Keep an eye on your cat to see if they lick other things around your house that have the same texture as their favorite wall.

Again, get your cat some enjoyable play time, new toys, or a cat tree to keep them occupied. Bored cats are just like bored children; they get themselves into trouble easily. Keep that feline of yours busy playing and exercising!


3. They Are Thirsty

Cat drinking from ceramic bowl
Image Credit: Pattysan, Shutterstock

If your cat is licking a wall that’s damp, like a shower wall or a wall in your basement, they may be doing it to drink. It’s not uncommon for cats to avoid their water bowls altogether and get the water they need from other places like dripping faucets, mud puddles, and damp walls.

If your cat is not drinking from their water bowl, consider getting a new water dish. Try a cat water fountain that will allure your cat with the movement and the sound of a bubbling brook. A fountain will encourage your little friend to drink more water so they stay hydrated. The best cat fountains have variable settings you can switch between to adjust the water flow.


4. They Have Pica 

When cats constantly eat non-edible things, such as fabric, rubber, wood, or plastic, it is called pica. Licking the walls would be a rare manifestation of pica. Luckily, this condition is not very common in cats. 

There are several factors that can lead to pica in cats. Behavioral problems, endocrine heath issues, genetics, gastrointestinal disease, and parasites can all be reasons for your cat to develop pica. Contact your vet if you see your cat eating unusual things to get to the bottom of the problem. If the issue is left untreated, consequences can be devastating. 


5. They Are Stressed or Bored

Small British fold kitten sits on wooden surface
Image Credit: MityRu, Shutterstock

Licking is a normal habit in cats that can turn into a compulsive behavior when they are suffering from stress or anxiety. Licking is usually manifested as over-grooming, but licking objects or the wall could happen as well. If your cat is incessantly licking a wall and it seems they can’t control their behavior, maybe they are under stress.

Try to get to the bottom of why your cat feels stressed. Maybe you’ve recently gotten a new pet, have moved into a new home, or have a new baby your cat is trying to get used to. If you remove the stressor, chances are your cat will stop licking the wall and get back to normal.

It is possible that the reason behind this behavior is that your cat is bored and can’t find anything to do all day. Maybe they don’t have any toys to play with. Buy your cat a fun new cat toy and maybe even a cat tree that will keep them busy playing for hours.

Speak to your veterinarian if you feel your indoor cat is bored. You can discuss different options, such as building a catio or letting them explore the world while you take them out on a harness and leash to keep them safe.


Why Cats Do a Lot of Licking

Cats lick themselves to keep clean and lick their food bowls to get every bit of food in their tummies. Cats also lick other things to discover the world around them. It’s not all that uncommon to see a cat licking a tree, houseplant, bathtub, sink, and even weirder things.

A cat’s tongue has a very rough surface which makes it a great grooming tool. This is why your cat licks themself often as they use their rough tongue to clean their body, tail, face, and paws.

Cats also use their rough tongues to greet other cats to form bonds. Mother cats lick their newborn kittens incessantly to show affection and to stimulate their breathing and suckling.

It’s normal for a cat to lick themselves, other cats, and objects in their environment occasionally. Licking isn’t a problem with a cat unless they are licking something non-stop. This can indicate a behavioral or a health problem, and it could cause them harm. For example, they lick a freshly painted or varnished wall.

A cat can become obsessive about licking themselves to the point that they start losing fur. If your cat is licking themselves all the time, get in touch with your veterinarian. Maybe they have parasites or a skin allergy that requires treatment. Just don’t allow the licking to get out of control wherein your cat is missing big patches of fur!

cat licking paw orange cat licking paw

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Conclusion

As you can see, there are several possible reasons why your cat is licking the wall. Once you determine what is causing this behavior in your cat, you can find a solution.

You should start by visiting your vet to have your cat thoroughly checked. Maybe you need to help your cat de-stress, or perhaps you need to get your cat a new water dish. Do whatever it takes to stop the wall licking, as this is definitely considered an abnormal behavior. 

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Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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