What Does It Mean When A Cat Licks A Dog?

For pet owners with different species of pets at home, nothing is more heartwarming than to see them getting along together and treating each other as family.

A simple search on youtube and you can witness the most unimaginable pets living in harmony like cats and birds, foxes and racoons, squirrels and wolves.

The list goes on and on.

But for most conventional pet loving homes, having both a cat and dog is a very common occurrence.

It can be a traumatizing experience if both cat and dog can’t get along.

But what does it mean if you see your cat licking your dog?

When a cat licks a dog, it means that the cat is grooming the dog and accepts it as part of the family. Cats love to groom themselves and each other as it relaxes them and allows them to exchange scents for identification purposes.

Let us take a closer look at why your cat has become so lovey-dovey with your dog.

Your Cat Has A Strong Parental Instinct

Every cat has its own unique personality and yours might just have a strong paternal instinct. This doesn’t apply to only female cats but to male cats as well.

Haven’t you heard of Oskar the cat?

If your dog is just a puppy and your cat has a strong parental instinct, you will find your cat treating it very much like its own.

Some cats can also ‘adopt’ much larger dogs as their own.

Female cats who have just given birth or have lost their kittens have strong maternal instincts that can be carried over to other pets as well.

A cat that has taken on a parenting role to a dog will be very protective of it.

It is a wonderful sight to see your cat trying to be a parent to your dog.

Your Cat Loves To Groom

There are two things that are quintessential in a cat’s daily schedule.

That would be sleeping and grooming.

Cats can sleep up to 20 hours a day and spend close to 5 hours grooming themselves and other cats.

I have even seen my cat groom himself while taking a nap.

Talk about being efficient.

Cats are clean creatures and grooming helps to remove dirt and dust that are trapped in their fur. Grooming also helps to remove all the loose fur from their body.

Cat owners who have long-haired cats should make it a point to brush them regularly. This helps to prevent their fur from matting up and lower the risk of getting hairballs too.

A cat’s love for grooming itself can also be carried over to your dog. This happens often if they are well socialized. Your cat licking your dog’s fur means that the grooming session is in process and it’s best to not be disturbed.

Your Cat Likes The Taste Of Ear Wax

If you find your cat licking your dog’s ear more often than not, it could be that your cat likes the taste of your dog’s ear wax.

As gross as it might sound, we need to see it from your cat’s point of view.

Your dog’s ear wax is made up of animal proteins, fatty acids and dead skin cells. To humans, it is gross and dirty.

But for cats who have a sense of smell that is 14x more sensitive than ours, are able to pick up the separate components in the ear wax. Subconsciously a cat’s brain receptors seek items that might be considered as food.

There are cats who will even dig in the bin for their owner’s dirty q tips.

Cats are drawn to the smell of animal protein and fats.

This explains why cats love the smell and taste of dairy products due to the high content of animal fats. Some cats are even drawn to plastic bags as they can smell the animal fat used in the manufacturing process.

So when your cat licks your dog on, in and around the ears, your cat is looking for a waxy snack.

Your Cat Is Showing Affection

When your cat grooms your dog, it is also your cat’s way of showing affection to its canine friend.

Cats bond and show affection by licking and grooming each other. You see this very often with a mother cat and her kittens.

Cats communicate mainly by smell and scent. They have scent glands located all over their body which makes it easy for them to mark their territory.

When a mother cat licks her kitten, she’s marking her scent on them so that they can be easily recognized by her. The kittens will also do the same by kneading her with their paws that have scent glands located in them too.

When cats lick dogs, they are in a way telling the dog that it is now the property of the cat and will receive copious amounts of licking.

Your dog is now spoken for.

Does Your Dog Enjoy Being Licked By Your Cat?

It does seem rather one-sided so far with your cat doing most of the licking and grooming on our dog’s face.

It isn’t part of a dog’s nature to be groomed so excessively as a cat.

They might not be used to having your cat licking them so often and can move away whenever your cat approaches. But from the countless stories that we have heard from our readers, many of their dogs eventually succumb to the cat’s persistence.

One reader even mentioned that she found her dog licking her cat more than ever now.

The majority of dogs are very tolerant and accepting of cats and other pets. They are actually more curious and willing to be friends with cats than the other way round. Many cats don’t take too well to having a new dog in the house and can start to show disdain towards their owners.

Cats and dogs can get along just fine but it is the cat owner’s responsibility to make sure that they are well socialized to prevent any conflicts.

How To Ensure That My Cat And Dog Get Along?

It is important to ensure that your cat and dog get along to prevent them from trying to attack each other.

The best to do this is when you first bring your cat or dog home.

One thing for pet owners to note is that cats are usually more cautious and slower to warm up when it comes to new pets.

So make sure that you move at the pace of your cat’s willingness to socialize with your dog.

Don’t just throw your cat and dog in the same room and expect them to get along after five minutes.

Start off slow by letting them smell each other through a door.

As they get comfortable, let your dog meet your cat by putting your cat in a carrier. This allows it to feel safe knowing that it is protected.

The final step would be to let them meet face to face but under supervision. At this stage, you should be confident that there are both very comfortable with each other.

Stop any signs of aggression before it escalates and the socialization process back down a notch.

It might take a while but they will eventually start to be best of friends.

Having a dog like a Staffy which is good with cats can help to quicken the socialization process too.

Other Ways That Cats Show Affection To Dogs

Licking your dog isn’t just the only way that your cat can show affection. Here are some other gestures that you might have noticed from your cat.

Head Bumping

Cats don’t just lick or groom other cats to show their affection. It is common to see friendly cats bumping heads with each other.

They have scent glands on their faces and the action of bumping heads allows them to engage in a mutual scent exchange.

You can also see cats doing this to their owners or other pets at home.

It is also the same gesture when your cat rubs up against the dog.


The art of kneading or ‘making biscuits’ is something that all cats have perfected as kittens.

All kittens are born blind and deaf.

The only way for them to let their mommy cat recognize them is by kneading her. Kneading also signals the mother cat to lactate as her little one is hungry.

Even as adults, cats will still knead as a sign of affection and show that they are feeling comfortable and secure.

After an intensive grooming session with your dog, your cat might start kneading its furry friend before settling down for a long nap.


It is perfectly fine to have your cat lick your dog as much as it wants as long as your dog is fine with it.

Cats are natural groomers and tend to groom and lick the people that they love.

Consider it as a gesture of acceptance into the cat family and it won’t be long before you start seeing your dog licking your cat back.

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