cat licking paw

Why Do Cats Lick Their Paws?

Last Updated on January 15, 2023 by admin

Cats licking their paws is a common and natural behavior. They do this to groom themselves and remove any traces of food or dirt. However, excessive or obsessive licking can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as allergies, boredom, stress, or a psychological illness. If your cat is licking their paws too much, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Normal Grooming Behavior

Cats are known for their fastidiousness when it comes to grooming. It’s normal for cats to spend up to 50% of their time grooming themselves by licking, and this is one of the most common reasons why cats lick their paws. When cats lick, they spread saliva over their fur, which helps lubricate it and make it shine. This keeps them looking and feeling their best, and also helps prevent mats from forming. Additionally, cats can use licking as a way to remove loose hair. This is an efficient way for cats to stay clean and look their best.

Pain Relief

Licking can also be a sign of pain relief for cats. Cats will lick when an area of their body is itchy or painful. Experts report there are many healing components to cat saliva, such as antibacterial and pain relief properties. If your cat has sustained a serious wound, you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Additionally, cats often cannot massage areas that are too painful, so licking is their way of addressing the underlying pain.


Boredom is another potential reason for why cats lick their paws excessively. If a cat is not receiving enough mental stimulation or is feeling bored, they may start to lick their paws as a way to cope and pass the time. This is thought to be due to the endorphins released when licking, which help relieve anxiety and stress. If your cat is displaying this type of behavior, it may be beneficial to provide them with more regular mental stimulation and enrichment activities.


Cleaning is another reason why cats may lick their paws. Cats use their sandpaper-like tongues to remove dirt and other particles from their fur. They will also use their tongues to clean their faces, ears, and other parts of the body. When they lick their paws they wet them with saliva, which has antibacterial properties, and then use the paw like a washcloth to wipe away anything that might be on their face.

Allergic Skin Disease

Cats can also be prone to allergies and skin diseases. Miliary dermatitis, also called scabby cat disease, is an allergic skin reaction caused by a variety of allergens. The presence of pustules or red bumps usually indicates a bacterial infection and warrants antibiotic treatment. Cats can have severe reactions to the flea’s saliva when the bite, and so even one flea can cause a large skin reaction. Up to one in five people around the world may be allergic to cats, so it is important to be aware of any allergic reactions your pet may have. Furthermore, cats with milder disease may simply lick or bite their paws in order to relieve their itching. Allergic cats may develop crusty dermatitis or lick their hair so much that they cause bald spots. Therefore, if you notice your cat is excessively licking their paws, it may be indicative of an underlying issue such as an allergic skin disorder.

Hair Removal

When cats groom, their barb-like tongues not only stimulate the sebaceous glands, they also help remove dead hair, skin cells, and parasites. By licking their fur and skin, cats are able to rid themselves of any unwanted debris, as well as provide themselves with a soothing experience. Not all cats will have the same amount of hair removal when licking, as it depends on their coat type and length. Longer haired cats may have more debris than shorter haired cats, but both will still benefit from the natural hair removal process.

Spread Sebum

Cats are equipped with a special grooming tool – their tongues. When cats groom themselves, their tongues spread sebum, an oily secretion produced by glands at the base of their hairs. This helps the cat’s coat stay moisturized and healthy. Additionally, cats lick their fur to help cool off in hot temperatures. The saliva evaporates off their fur and helps regulate their body temperature – a great benefit in hot weather!

Social Bonding

While cats licking their paws is a normal behavior, it can also be a sign of social bonding. Cats may lick and groom each other for social bonding or affection, because the other cat smells interesting, or as an act of dominance and establishing the hierarchy. This grooming strengthens their social bonds, so your cat may groom you to nurture your relationship. Sorry, it’s not because they secretly love you. A cat behavioral expert explains the main theories behind the feline behavior of licking as “marking their territory” and “allogrooming”. Allogrooming is the kind of grooming cats do with the mates in their clowder. They like and accept you, and their tongue and nose are now filled with your scent, making them feel more secure in your presence. Cats that are bonded sometimes show sweet displays of affection toward each other, like grooming. They’ll lick and bite each other, clean the other’s fur, and distribute saliva all over their body to help them with primping.

Diet Deficiency

Finally, diet deficiency is another reason why cats may be licking their paws. Cats may be lacking in certain vitamins and minerals that can lead to them licking their paws for relief. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals is important for cats to ensure they are getting the proper nutrition they need. If your cat seems to be licking its paws excessively, it may be a sign that it is not getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals. In this case, consulting with your veterinarian is a good idea to determine the best course of action.

Anxiety and Stress Relief

Cats may also lick their paws excessively when they feel anxious or stressed. This behavior can be triggered by environmental changes, such as a move to a new home, or the absence of their pet parent. Overgrooming can be seen as a way for cats to cope with their anxiety and stress. Licking releases endorphins that can help reduce anxiety levels. Cats may also lick as a way to cool off if they are overheated and to feel safe from potential predators. It is important to recognize when your cat is licking excessively, and provide them with the proper care and support to help relieve their stress and anxiety.