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Why Does My Cat Lick My Feet and Toes? (Six Possible Reasons)

Chelsea Mortensen Profile Picture

By Chelsea Mortensen

cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs

Kitty licks are usually soft, warm, and sandpapery. Sometimes these licks are nice, but maybe not as nice when they’re on your feet! Whether you’re looking for a way to stop your cat from licking your feet or just interested in what’s going on in your cat’s head, this list can help you figure out why your cat is licking and the best way to respond.

The Top 6 Reasons Why Your Cat Licks Your Feet and Toes

1. It’s a Grooming Thing

Cats have a reputation for being loners, but that’s not entirely true. Cats do have social relationships with other cats, and they love to groom their feline friends! Sometimes, that transfers over to humans. Your cat doesn’t know that you prefer tongue-free methods of cleaning; they just want to help. Sometimes the grooming is even an attempt to teach you how to clean yourself like you would a kitten!

2. Feet are a Safe Space

Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, with around 200 million scent receptors to help them get around. Smell is a major part of the way they recognize things, and Feet are full of strong smells. Your feet have around 250,000 sweat glands on them. to your cat, that’s like a big flashing sign saying, “Loved one here!” Many cats will lick and cuddle with your feet because they know it’s you.

cat rubbing against owner
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

3. You’ve Got a Yummy Taste or Smell

Your feet might also be attractive in another way. As gross as it sounds, your cat might like the taste of sweat or skin oils. Or you may have picked up something delicious while walking around, like some buttery cracker crumbs from the kitchen. If your cat tends to lick your feet right before mealtimes, it might be that they’re looking for a little snack to hold them over.

4. Your Cat Is Marking Territory

That sense of smell can also be used to pass messages to other cats. When your cat licks you, they leave behind a little bit of their saliva on you. Each cat’s spit has a distinct smell, so licking something is a way to tell other cats that you’ve been claimed. Feet are the perfect place to lick because they’re right next to any passing cat’s nose. If your cat loves to rub and nuzzle with her head while she’s licking, that’s a good sign she’s trying to scent mark you.

Cat rubbing against owner's legs
Image Credit: Evan Abram McGinnis, Shutterstock

5. Your Cat Wants Attention

Sometimes, your cat’s just after a reaction. Feet are usually easy to reach, so licking might be a way of getting your attention quickly and easily. Maybe your cat wants affection from you, or maybe she’s trying to beg for something. If your cat stops licking as soon as you start giving her your attention, she’s probably just trying to get you to look her way.

6. They’re Anxious, Stressed, or Sick

A final reason why cats might lick your feet is that there’s something wrong. Like we said above, feet are a safe space and usually a good way to get your attention too. If your cat doesn’t know how to tell you something is wrong, they might go for the foot lick. If licking is abnormal behavior for your cat, you might want to monitor them for other signs of distress.

cat rubbing its body the owner
Image Credit: Piqsels

Why Does My Cat Attack My Feet?

The dark sister to foot licking is foot attacking. If your cat likes to attack feet, some of the reasons above might be culprits. They might be looking for attention or trying to communicate with something. Foot attacks can also be a form of play or affection. Finally, attacking your feet might be because we tend to move or twitch our feet without thinking, and that’s mesmerizing to cats!

How Do I Discourage Foot-Licking?

If you want to stop your cat from licking your feet, there are a few different options. Sometimes ignoring your cat is enough to stop it, especially if your cat is doing it to get attention. You can also try putting a strong-scented lotion on your feet or adding citrus oils to your shoes to discourage feline attention.

Last Thoughts

Licking feet might seem silly to us, but it’s actually pretty normal cat behavior. The exact reasons vary, but the long and short of it is that your cat probably loves you and is trying to express that love. Whatever the reason is, it’s pretty reassuring to know that our cats want us to be a part of their lives just as much as we love having them be a part of ours.

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Featured Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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