• Home
  • /
  • Cat Care
  • /
  • Why Does My Cat Lick My Feet? (We Uncover The Truth)

Why Does My Cat Lick My Feet? (We Uncover The Truth)

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: May 25, 2022 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: March 29, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones

If you have a cat, you might have wondered, why does my cat lick my feet?  Why do our feline friends' have such a love affair with feet? Cats are obsessed with their "hooman's" feet for several reasons. It's a big part of a cat's life, they find comfort in them and use them to express love and affection. Also, they sniff your feet for information about places you have visited.

Clever eh! 

black cat licking foot

Cat's pride themselves on a highly sensitive organ called Jacobson's organ, located on the roof of the mouth, that allows them to taste the scents and pheromones released by your feet. Your feet's smell also makes your cat feel comfortable and sure of its safety. Some felines like pouncing on their owner's feet as they are mimicking hunting prey. Licking and rubbing their head on their feet is also common among these pets. They do it to show affection, draw the owner's attention, and mark territory. 

Licking, sniffing, the occasional head butt, and rubbing are all inoffensive actions that cause no pain to your feet. However, if the cat attacks your feet with its sharp claws, you may end up with bites and scratches. You will have to take some steps to discourage your feline's aggressive behaviour and uncover the possible reasons why they are irritated.

Why Does My Cat Lick My Feet?

Feet have the highest concentration of sweat glands of all body parts. The army of 250,000 glands produces about 200 ml of sweat a day. Cats have a much more acute and powerful sense of smell when compared to humans. Their nose hosts 200 million scent receptors. 

Cats use this Mother Nature gift to look for and identify their owners through the pheromones found in sweat. Also, the longer they sense their owner's smell and the stronger this smell is, the more secure and fulfilled they feel. It explains why your cat likes being around its owners' feet.

Another reason your feline is obsessed with your feet is its desire to find out where you have been. Feet collect a lot of smells from places you visit during the day. So when you come home and your cat jumps into inspecting your feet or shoes, it wants to learn more about those places and people you have interacted with. They might spot the smell of another animal. So don't be alarmed if your four-legged friend gets angry after sniffing your feet.

ginger cat resting on bed looking at foot

Why Do Cats Like to Lick Feet?

Aside from smelling your feet, your feline might be fond of licking them, which might not be quite a pleasant experience for you. A cat's tongue is a bit like sandpaper as it is covered in tiny spikes which help at brushing and cleaning the fur. Those spikes are not as sharp as knives but they are pretty harsh so they will make their presence felt while your pet's licking you. 

Here are some top reasons why cats like to lick their owner's feet:

Reason #1: Grooming

Cats may use their tongue to groom their owner. When your cat grooms your feet, it lets you know how much it cares and recognizes you as a part of the family. 

Moreover, it wants to teach you how to groom right since it believes it is a crucial survival skill. They are actually giving a cat's tongue lesson, bless them!

Reason #2: Affection

Licking is a way cats show their kitty love. This gesture dates back to their early days when their mom used to lick them to groom and express her love. Cats may lick every part of the human body.

But you will find them licking mostly your feet because they have easier access to them. If your cat sits beside you on the couch, it is most likely to lick your arms or any other body part that's in its easy reach. Cats have a great intuition that allows them to feel their owner's mood. If your puss cat senses that you are upset or stressed, it will start to lick or love-bite you to show affection, and try to lift your mood. 

And it should really help as licking releases dopamine hormones that reduce anxiety and cheer you up. And yes, that sandpaper kitty tongue will tickle you!

Reason #3: Stress

Stressed cats are prone to lick their owners excessively. It's like humans would tap the pencil against the desk repeatedly when nervous. Such repetitive action releases endorphins that calm your cat. 

Also, by focusing on licking, your cat takes its mind off the thing that made it stressed, be it the move to a new house, an unknown guest, or New Year fireworks. Even if you don't like your feet being licked, do not reject your cat. You want to give it maximum support and lots of positive stimulation in these difficult moments. 

Typically, cats stop licking their owner's feet when the danger disappears. However, if your pet keeps doing it for no reason for hours in a row, it may hint at a compulsive disorder. You want to ask a vet for advice on how to address this condition.

Reason #4: Territory

Your cat will also lick your feet if it feels competition from other cats or pets. They do this to mark their territory and tell other animals that you are its possession. Cats' saliva has a scent that other felines can sense and understand that the territory is taken. 

This battle for territory can get really intense if you have two or more cats in the house given that they are very jealous. You have to give them equal attention and, if possible, separate their food and bed.

Why Do Cats Rub Their Face Against Hoomans?

While a cat that rubs its head on the owner's feet seems to be looking for his or her attention, there is a deeper meaning in this exercise. Cats have a large number of scent glands around their head that hold their pheromones. If your cat senses foreign scents on your foot, it will rub her cheeks, chin, and mouth on it to erase the smells and mark its territory with its own scent. 

Some smart cats rub their face on the owner's feet or shoes before he or she leaves the house. Their pheromones will discourage other cats from flirting with their owner. Furthermore, this face-rubbing exercise is also a way the feline tells you that it feels comfortable with you and would like you to be part of the pack. It gives you an invitation by leaving its pheromones on your feet.

cat asleep on feet

Why Do Cats Sleep on Our Feet?

Your cat chooses to sleep next to your feet for a number of reasons. First of all, it considers your feet a safe and comfortable place. Your smell makes it feel secure and content. Being beside its owner calms the cat and lifts its mood. This helps it fall asleep faster and enjoy a session of quality sleep.

There are also some technical reasons why your feline chooses to sleep near your feet. The feet don't hold as much heat as the upper body does. Hence, cats settle down near them to prevent their body from overheating. Also, the part of the bed where feet are placed is usually closer to the bedroom's door. It allows the cat to be in better control of what happens outside the room. Moreover, it will find it easier to escape the room if it needs it.

Get 30% off and FREE shipping on cat food!

U.S.A. only

To Find out why we recommend chewy.com, click here

While kittens love sleeping on our chests, as it reminds them of their mother, they may avoid doing this as they grow up. As they become adults, they understand that people turn and toss in bed. If they settled down on your chest or near your pillow, they would be at risk of being crushed. That's why they tend to sleep next to your feet which have lighter weight and perform less tossing during bedtime.

Why Do Cats Attack the Owner's Feet?

Not all cats attack their owner's feet for the same reason. Some kitties will do it just to play with you. Sometimes that swift pounce can mean an invitation to play, and once you accept to enter the game, your kitty will stop hitting your feet. Some cats don't want you to play with them. 

They might attack your feet to attract your attention and let you know that it's time to pet or feed them. Just like us, our four-legged friends have some tricks of drawing someone else's attention when they need affection or help. Kids do it by crying, cats do it by slapping your feet with their hard paws or rubbing their body on you.

While some felines look for play and see your foot as a toy, others will see it as prey and will want to catch it. If hunting instinct has awakened in your cat, it will pounce on your feet hard, fast, and repeatedly. Why does it choose feet as a target?

  • First of all, this body part is on the floor and it's easier to reach for the kitty.
  • Secondly, cats tend to chase moving prey. Your feet become such when you are walking.
  • And thirdly, cats hunt small prey like birds and mice. Your feet are the perfect size for the feline to launch an attack on them and, as they think, to defeat them with ease.

A cat's hunting instinct is developed in kittenhood. If you encourage your kitten to pound your feet for fun, it may become an aggressive hunter when it grows up. We all know the difference between a tiny and soft paw of a kitten and a hard paw with the sharp claws of an adult cat. 

So if you don't want to be attacked by your feline on daily basis, do not stimulate its hunting instinct in its kittenhood.  Of course, cats are innate predators, so they are naturally keen on hunting even if this very instinct wasn't stimulated when they were kittens. 

To prevent yourself from being a permanent target, buy special prey toys and let your cat play with them when its hunting instinct is at its highest.

Sometimes cats attack their owner's feet because they have nowhere to expel their energy. By doing it, they not only work off their energy but also ask you to give them more play opportunities. In this case, you should buy your kitty more stimulation cat toys and provide it with more entertainment options. By keeping your feline busy, you will make it forget about your feet.

cat climbing leg of human

How to Discourage Your Cat from Attacking Your Feet?

Letting your cat pounce on your feet can be a great way to have fun together. However, if your pet does it permanently and in an aggressive way, you might want to stop it to prevent bites and scratches. That has gone beyond cat love. 

There are some things you can do to deter your feline from attacking your feet. First of all, do not provoke your kitty. Don't confront it, don't slap it back as it can make it even more aggressive. Keep your feet still as cats tend to chase moving prey. If your cat attacks you while you are walking, freeze for a minute. This will make your feet uninterested in it and make the cat leave.

Try to keep your feet out of the cat's sight, if possible. When the feline attacks, use toys to draw its attention away from your feet. Give it more play opportunities so that it doesn't expel all its energy on your feet. 

Thick socks may protect your skin from scratches and bites. So don't hesitate to wear a pair when your cat has a burst of aggression. Discouraging your feline verbally may also work. Once it launches an attack on your feet, order it to stop in a firm voice. It will let it know that you are not happy with its actions and make it stop out of fear of losing you as a friend, caregiver, and protector.

Take these steps every time your pet attacks your feet to teach it that such behaviour is not welcome. It may take a while so stay consistent. Don't reject, though, your cat when it sits next to your feet, smells or licks them. It will do it to show affection, mark territory, or inspect your feet for unfamiliar smells. 

Being a highly possessive creature, a cat may get jealous and angry at the unfamiliar scents it identifies on its feet. To prevent it from becoming aggressive, wash your feet before interacting with it. This will remove all scents so that your kitty doesn't find any suspicious or hostile traces while having a sniff.

Why Does My Cat Lick My Feet: Summary

So as you can see, the reasoning behind this common question, why does my cat lick my feet, is all very instinctive. It is a really big way of them showing you affection and also making themselves comfortable. 

Cats are rather complex at the best of times so if your cat is a real foot-fan then our biggest bit of advice could well be to invest in a big pair of comfortable slippers.

Get 30% off and FREE shipping on cat supplies!

U.S.A only

To Find out why we recommend chewy.com, click here

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.