Why does my cat lick her fur where I just petted her?

Dec. 31, 2018

Dear Joan: Whenever I pet our loving tabby cat, she immediately cleans herself in the area where I petted her.

Should I be offended because she doesnít like my scent and is trying to remove it, or flattered because she likes my scent and is enjoying it?

ó Rebecca

Dear Rebecca: As with a lot of things involving those wonderfully mysterious and perplexing felines, thereís more than one answer.

The first, frankly, is the most positive for our egos. Your cat is not trying to rub away your strokes in the same way a young child wipes away your kisses. Far from it.

Cats regard us as other cats. Large, strange looking cats, but catlike beings that are neither above nor below themselves. When you pet your cat and she then licks the same spot, it could be her way of performing mutual grooming, an act that occurs between close and loving cats.

In this scenario, you are another cat grooming your cat. Just be thankful you donít have to use your tongue.

Another possibility is that you are petting her in a place that isnít as easy for her to get at, and sheís trying to help you reach the sweet spot. This happens most often near the base of a catís tail, where she canít quite reach. Itís akin to scratching a dog and having it start gyrating its rear leg. The cat often will lick at the air, as if she is licking the hard-to-reach spot.

A third reason could be that your cat has a sore or itchy spot caused by a skin irritation, either from a food or insect allergy. Your touching that area makes it itch or tingle and your cat tries to sooth or quiet the itch. If it happens in the same place every time, then you should have your cat checked by a veterinarian.

The last reason experts have identified is called feline hyperesthesia syndrome, a condition where your catís skin becomes hypersensitive. Your stroke could be causing discomfort and pain.

This is another instance when a trip to the vet is necessary, but as you didnít mention any negative reaction from your cat, I suspect thereís nothing wrong and nothing for you to be offended by. Keep on petting.



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