Understand licking behaviour
Animal lick for a number of reasons. This may be normal behaviour or you may wish your pet not to lick as much or to lick appropriate objects, not you!
You pet may be licking due to one or more of the following reasons...
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.
Allergies are common in pets and most excessive scratching and skin conditions are due to allergies. Check with your vet.
Parasites can also cause your pet to groom more. Learn more about flea treatments to keep your pet parasite-free.
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.
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.
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.
'Stop licking me!' I often hear owners say to their dogs.
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.
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.
Our pets will often lick us to gain attention. This works as we push them away, shout at them to stop or plare at them. Sometimes we even laugh. All of these humans responses will encourage your pet to lick you more.