Why Do Bengal Cats Lick You?

  • August 1, 2023

Whether you love it or hate, most cats, including Bengals, lick their pet parents. Their tongues are like warm, wet sandpaper that’s being rubbed on your skin and to a lot of humans, that’s really not very soothing. So why do Bengal cats lick you? In this article we’ll be covering the following:

  • Why Do Their Tongues Feel Like Sandpaper?
  • Reasons Why They Lick You
  • What to Do if You Don’t Like Their Licking?

Why Do Their Tongues Feel Like Sandpaper?

So why is it that their tongues feel like sandpaper? The main reason is that they are ideally made for grooming. Your Bengal’s tongue feels like sandpaper to you because it is covered with papillae which are backward-facing hooks that are made of keratin. Keratin is the same material that makes their claws. The papillae on their tongue is not only good for grooming but it also was meant to help cats in the wild rasp meat off bones. When used for grooming it acts like a comb and helps to pull out any loose fur or dirt in their fur.

By the way, just because your Bengal’s tongue is well suited for grooming doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give them additional grooming with a good brush and comb, see our piece on Best Brushes for Bengal Cats to find out more on grooming.

Reasons Why They Lick You

There are a lot of different reasons why your Bengal might be licking you and we’ll try to cover some of those reasons here:

  • Your cat is grooming you. Grooming is one of the very first things that kittens learn to do. The mama cat licks her kittens to help keep them clean and to show them love and affection. Then the kittens pick up this habit and they start off by grooming their siblings along with themselves. This is a nifty way of social bonding as well. Just think of it this way, when your Bengal is licking you, they are treating you like one of their family members and this should be a huge compliment to you.
  • You cat is comfortable with you. You do a lot of things for and with your Bengal. You fee them, you play with them, you keep their litter box clean and so on. The truth is, you do a lot for your Bengal friend and whether they show it or not, they are very well aware that you are their caretaker.   Not only is your Bengal used to having you in their life, but they feel safe around you. Licking is probably one of their ways to express just how comfortable and safe they feel around you.  After all in cat logic they are probably thinking “I love licking and being licked. To me it’s soothing and comforting. So, let’s do the same favor for my human!”
  • They could be marking you with their scent. Ever notice that your Bengal might want to lick you more when you come back from being gone for awhile? This could be because they’re jealous and wonder where you were and who you were with. Sometimes they might smell another cat on you or even a dog and this could make them feel insecure. So when they start licking you they could be marking you with their scent just to make it known that you belong to them.
  • Just giving you a kiss. Face it, if you are well bonded with your Bengal, they love you. Licking you is one way of showing their affection for you, by giving you a “kitty kiss”. Showering you with affection when you come home is their way of saying “Welcome home. I sure missed you while you were gone!”
  • It could be that you taste good. Yes, that does sound strange, but they could be licking you because to them to taste or smell great. It could just be the natural salt that is on our skin. It also could be after you’ve fixed dinner for yourself and they love the smell of the food on your hands. Sometimes it could be after you put on a special body lotion they’re attracted to.
  • They want your attention. Sometimes they start licking you because they are wanting your attention, plain and simple. If the licking is accompanied with other telltale signs of pay attention to me like rubbing against you, meowing, or jumping up on something you are working with, then you know it’s a pretty good sign they’re asking for some pampering.
  • It could mean there’s a problem. Both grooming and licking are behaviors that are soothing and calming to all cats. However, if the licking becomes excessive this can actually be a sign that there might be a problem. Any big change in your Bengal’s behavior is always worth bringing up with your vet. This is important to do because obsessive licking can often be caused by stress, boredom, or anxiety and you don’t want your Bengal suffering from any of these things.

Here’s a video of a cute Bengal kitten licking their pet parent:

What if You Don’t Like Their Licking?

A lot of pet parents simply don’t enjoy the experience of their cats licking them. This is really a shame in a way because this is a huge compliment coming from your cat. However, if you are one of those pet parents that really don’t like it, the best way to avoid becoming a kitty lollipop is just don’t let your Bengal make a habit of it.

One of the first things you need to do is to learn what the signs are that your Bengal shows that they are about to start licking. Then before they start licking your skin raw try redirecting their attention with one of their toys. If your cat loves catnip then try sneaking in a catnip filled toy right in front of them when they’re just about ready to start licking. If they don’t like catnip then try distracting them with a toy that has their favorite treat in it.

Another thing you can do is to groom them instead. When they start trying to lick you get their brush out and begin grooming them. Since they love to be groomed, this could be a great way to repay them for their desire to want to show you affection.

It’s not always going to be easy to retrain your Bengal if they are in the habit of licking. However, it’s important that you remain kind and gentle with them if you are trying to retrain them. Always avoid yelling and never show any intense physical reactions like shoving them away or tossing them off your lap. And most importantly, never hit them.

Now, if you just so happen to enjoy their licking, your Bengal will love you for it and generally it is a safe thing to let them do. But, you might want to avoid letting them lick your face. There really is a thing called “cat scratch fever”, it’s not just the title of a 70s rock song. It is actually a bacterial infection that can be transmitted through the saliva of your cat. This bacteria can be extremely harmful if it should get into your eyes or into a cut or open sore. However, if your cat is healthy, there probably isn’t much to worry about.

Just remember, no matter what you think of your cats licking, it’s best for you to accept their kitty kisses as a compliment and their way of saying they’re glad you’re part of the family and that they love you.

Well, we hope that this article has helped you gain a better understanding of why your Bengals likes to lick you. Please let us know what you think by leaving your comment below.

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