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Dear Molly, "Cat Licking"

Dear Molly,

I recently adopted a 3 month old cat, and I was told he was found in a trash can. He will not stop licking me! at first I didn’t mind but every time I wake up he starts it. Whether it’s my skin or my T-shirt it doesn’t matter. It’s starting to drive me absolutely crazy. 

I try and move him to his blanket but he is very persistent and starts licking as soon as he crawls back to me. I want to cuddle but I cannot handle constantly being licked. 

I listened to your podcast and it mentions positive reinforcement but I’m not sure how to do that with him being so new and young especially if I’m sleeping. 

Do you have any advice? 

Dear "Cat Licking"

This is a tough behavior to change. It is called wool sucking and is often seen in kittens who were taken from their mothers before being completely weaned.

Here are some things to try:

  • You can try putting something on your skin he will not like the smell/taste of. Some cats are repelled by citrus scents so maybe a lotion that is citrus scented.

  • Wear long sleeves to expose as little skin as possible and pull your hand away out of his reach when he starts to lick them.

  • What does he respond to/what is his highest value “reward”? shaved turkey, chicken baby food work well for food rewards. Petting or play work well for non-food motivated cats. When he is in your lap or next to you and not licking you, give him the reward.

  • Punishment doesn’t work in cats – if you attempt to scold him or punish him in any way, it will only erode the bond between you. Ignore the behavior – get up and walk away if you have to, but don’t punish a behavior that is natural for a cat.

  • Some cats grow out of this behavior as they get older so hang in there!


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