Pet licking behaviour

Pet Licking Tips


Licking is a normal behaviour. Excessive licking is not. Work out the cause.


Excessive licking may be due to mouth or dietary issues, allergies or parasites or even attention-seeking.


Occupy your pet’s mouth with appropriate items for them to lick and chew.

Understand licking behaviour

Your pet may be licking, or over-licking/grooming, due to one or more of the following reasons…

Grooming behaviour
To wash and groom themselves or other animals. Most animals, cats especially self-groom. This is natural behaviour but can become excessive due to conditions such as parasites, allergies or anxiety.
Many animals also like to groom others, including humans. Most animals are able to tolerate this grooming behaviour Some even indulge in mutual grooming, where they groom one another.

 
Itchy skin
Allergies are common in pets and most excessive scratching and skin conditions are due to allergies. 
Parasites can also cause your pet to groom more. Learn more about flea treatments to keep your pet parasite-free. Check with your vet.
 
Sore mouths
Dogs and cats with sore mouths – teeth or gums – will often try to relieve the pain by licking or chewing on objects around them. A dental check will ensure your pet’s mouth is as healthy as possible.
 
Tasting or exploring the world
Like humans babies, young kittens and puppies explore the world with their mouths. This leads to chewing and licking behaviour.  Dogs continue chewing throughout their lives, sometimes to their owners’ dismay.
Most animals will be attracted to surfaces that have food on them. 
 
Reducing anxiety
When animals feel anxious, activities such as self-grooming may calm them down. This is especially true of cats. If your cat is over-grooming, ask yourself if they could be anxious.
OCD
Is your pet obsessive-compulsive? Do they lick the air for apparently no purpose at all? Again, this could be caused by anxiety or other medical conditions. Please speak to your vet.
 
 

Solutions for licking problems

and more reasons to lick…

Attention seeking
Our pets will often lick us to gain attention. This works as we push them away, shout at them to stop or glare at them. Sometimes we even laugh. All of these humans responses will encourage your pet to lick you more.
 
Calming down
When dogs are stressed they may lick their lips or yawn. These are signals of mild stress and owners need to heed their dog’s signals. If your dog looks stressed, remove it from the situation.
 
Satisfying dietary needs
Licking may be a way of sampling what’s around you and perhaps animals do this instinctively to try to make up for missing elements – vitamins or minerals – in their diet. Dietary deficiencies may also be caused by physiological conditions so have your pet checked at the vet.
Some animals seem particularly attracted to sweat, after you have exercised for example, or dirt, after gardening.

Stop over-grooming
Look for patterns in the behaviour of your pet to alert you to when your pet is likely to be grooming themselves. Prior to them beginning to groom, step in with something more appropriate to occupy their mouths e.g. food chew, toy.

How To Stop Licking You?
If you want your pet to stop licking you, look for the cause of the licking. In most cases it will be, or at least involve, attention seeking behaviour. Do not give attention to this behaviour. Instead step in, before your pet starts licking you, with a distracting activity like a food chew or a toy.
Until your pet gets the idea, you might want to wear long rubber gloves to protect your arms from being licked. After all, that tongue has been to a lot undesirable places!

Vet and diet check
Have your pet’s mouth and stomach checked and also their diet.

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