Why Does My Dog Lick My Cat?

Have you ever wondered why your dog has the inexplicable urge to lick your cat? It’s a common behavior that leaves many pet owners puzzled. In this article, I will explore the underlying reasons behind this seemingly unusual habit. From affection and grooming to establishing dominance and seeking attention, there are several possible explanations for why your dog finds such delight in licking your feline friend. So, if you’ve ever questioned this quirky behavior, read on to unravel the mystery behind why your dog just can’t resist giving your cat a lick.

Reasons for Dogs Licking Cats

1. Natural Instincts

1.1. Grooming Behavior

One common reason why dogs lick cats is rooted in their natural instincts. Dogs are known to be clean animals and frequently groom themselves. Similarly, they extend this grooming behavior to their feline counterparts, helping to keep their fellow furry friends clean and well-groomed. It’s their instinctual way of showing care and maintaining hygiene within their social group.

1.2. Establishing Dominance

Licking can also be a way for dogs to establish dominance over other animals, including cats. By licking their feline companions, dogs are asserting their position as the more dominant member of the pack. This behavior is often seen in multi-pet households where dogs may feel the need to assert their authority or establish a hierarchy within the group.

1.3. Affection and Bonding

Licking can also be an expression of affection and bonding between dogs and cats. When a dog licks a cat, it can be a sign of friendship and a way to strengthen their social bond. This behavior may also release pleasurable endorphins in both animals, contributing to their emotional connection.

2. Stress Relief

2.1. Anxiety Reduction

Dogs often lick cats as a means of reducing their own anxiety or stress levels. Licking can provide a calming effect for dogs, similar to the soothing sensation experienced when humans engage in activities such as chewing gum or taking deep breaths. Licking a cat allows dogs to redirect their nervous energy and find relief from stress-inducing situations.

2.2. Comfort Seeking

In addition to anxiety reduction, dogs may lick cats as a way of seeking comfort. The act of licking offers a sense of familiarity and security, which can be particularly beneficial for dogs in stressful or unfamiliar environments. By licking a cat, dogs may be seeking reassurance and finding solace in the companionship of their feline friend.

3. Social Hierarchy and Pack Mentality

3.1. Dog Licking as a Submission Gesture

Licking is an innate aspect of dog behavior when it comes to establishing social hierarchy within their pack. When dogs lick cats, it can be seen as a submissive gesture, indicating to the cat that the dog acknowledges the cat’s higher status. This behavior helps maintain a harmonious relationship within the animal group and prevents potential conflicts or aggression.

3.2. Establishing Social Order

Dogs may also lick cats to enforce and reinforce the social order within their multi-pet household. By grooming and interacting with their feline companions through licking, dogs are reminding both themselves and the cats of their respective positions and roles in the social hierarchy. This behavior helps set boundaries and promotes peaceful coexistence among the different members of the household.

4. Sensory Exploration

4.1. Investigating Scent

Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell to gather information about the world around them. When dogs lick cats, they may be engaging in sensory exploration, using their tongues to gather valuable olfactory information. By licking the fur and skin of cats, dogs can learn about the scents and pheromones emitted by their feline counterparts, gaining insight into their physical and emotional well-being.

4.2. Taste and Texture Exploration

Another reason dogs may lick cats is to satisfy their curiosity regarding taste and texture. Dogs have a keen sense of taste and are intrigued by unfamiliar flavors and textures. By licking cats, dogs can experience the different taste sensations and textures present in the cat’s fur or skin. This behavior allows dogs to satisfy their natural sense of exploration and curiosity.

5. Attention and Play

5.1. Invitation to Play

Licking can be a way for dogs to invite cats to engage in play. Dogs often use licking as a playful gesture, signaling to the cat that they are ready to interact and have some fun. This behavior can be especially common when dogs and cats share a close bond and enjoy engaging in playful activities together. Licking serves as a friendly invitation to initiate playtime and strengthen their bond.

5.2. Seeking Attention or Affection

Dogs are social animals that thrive on attention and affection from their human and animal companions. By licking cats, dogs may be seeking attention or affection from their feline friends. This behavior can be a way for dogs to express their desire for interaction and to receive love and attention in return. Licking becomes a positive reinforcement mechanism for dogs to receive the affection they crave.

6. Health-related Factors

6.1. Skin Conditions or Irritation

Sometimes, dogs may lick cats as a response to underlying health issues. Cats with skin conditions or irritations may emit odors that attract dogs, prompting them to lick the affected areas. Dogs have a strong instinct to help alleviate discomfort in their companions, and by licking, they may attempt to soothe the cat’s skin or relieve any irritation present.

6.2. Nutritional Deficiencies

Licking can also be driven by nutritional deficiencies in dogs. Some dogs may seek out the taste of a cat’s fur or skin because they are lacking certain nutrients in their own diet. By instinctively licking cats, dogs may be trying to supplement their diet with nutrients present in the cat’s fur or through unintentional ingestion of cat hair.

6.3. Dental Issues

Dogs, like humans, may experience dental issues that contribute to excessive licking behaviors. Pain, discomfort, or an oral health problem can cause a dog to lick cats as a response. By licking, dogs may be attempting to alleviate the discomfort in their mouths or seek relief from toothaches or other dental ailments.

7. Learned Behavior

7.1. Reinforcement

Sometimes, dogs develop a habit of licking cats due to positive reinforcement. If a dog licks a cat and receives attention or treats as a result, they may continue the behavior as a way to seek rewards. Positive reinforcement inadvertently encourages dogs to repeat the licking behavior, leading to a learned behavior pattern over time.

7.2. Imitation of Owner’s Interaction

Dogs are highly observant creatures and often imitate the actions of their human owners. If a dog witnesses their owner interacting affectionately with a cat, such as petting or cuddling, they may imitate this behavior by licking the cat. Dogs learn by observing and mimicking their surroundings, and in this case, they mimic their owner’s interactions to build a similar bond with the cat.

8. Individual Differences

It’s essential to recognize that every dog is unique, and their motivations for licking cats may vary. Factors such as breed, personality, past experiences, and the specific dynamics in their environment can influence their behaviors and reasons for licking. Each dog-cat relationship is also unique, and while some dogs may lick cats for specific reasons, others may not exhibit this behavior at all. It’s vital to consider these individual differences when trying to understand why a dog may choose to lick a cat.


While there may be various reasons why dogs lick cats, they are often rooted in natural instincts, social dynamics, and the desire for companionship. From grooming behavior to stress relief and attention-seeking, dogs use licking as a means of expressing their emotions and building relationships with their feline companions. Understanding these reasons can help pet owners nurture a harmonious and happy coexistence between dogs and cats in their households.






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