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Home > Cats > Why Does My Cat Clean Herself on Me? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Why Does My Cat Clean Herself on Me? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

cat licking itself on a person's lap

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Our cats communicate all kinds of things to us on a daily basis. The reasons behind certain behaviors can sometimes be hard to pinpoint, given that we don’t speak the same language.

If you’ve felt like a bathtub for your cat, there are a few reasons that your feline may be cleaning themselves on your lap—and they are all positive! Let’s jump right in.

divider-catThe 4 Possible Reasons Why a Cat Cleans Herself on You

1. Vulnerability

Your cat is a predator, it’s true. However, they have very keen senses as to what is going on around them, staying on high alert. When they engage in grooming, they need to be completely relaxed.

In order to relax, they have to have complete certainty that their current environment is safe and free of any threat or potential danger. Even if there is a little chaos happening around you, grooming can’t take place while your cat is in a state of reservation.

So, if you notice your cat lapping their fur while cuddling, this is a surefire signal that they totally trust you.

cat licking paw
Image By: TeamK, Pixabay

2. Affection

A cat licking themselves on your lap can also be a huge part of their love language. You might also notice they take pauses during their grooming session for rubs, welcomed with purring and bunting.

In addition to all the sweet behaviors your cat shows while grooming, they might also have their purr box running with the volume up. As any cat owner knows, purring is a direct sign of pleasure, comfort, and love.

Did you know that a cat purrs in a consistent pattern between 25 and 150 hertz? Scientists have discovered that a cat’s purr at this frequency can promote healthy bone density and improve other areas of overall health.

Is it really any wonder that Egyptians revered cats as gods? If their purr holds magical healing powers, we really can’t blame them.

So, consider yourself one lucky person if your cat is sharing this healing affection with you—licks and all.

3. Comfortability

You might simply make your cat feel plumb comfortable. They love cozying up with their favorite human, enjoying all of their favorite activities—cuddles, cleanliness, and massages.

You might also see other behaviors in addition to grooming that can signal comfort. For instance, if your kitty is kneading in between licks, it can be a display of immense love and admiration.

You can pretty much instantly tell that they are thoroughly enjoying the experience—and you probably are, too.

cat licking human fingers
Image By: congerdesign, Pixabay

4. Trust

You know as well as any feline lover that our cats can be a little finicky about their boundaries. They don’t always trust humans, and definitely have limits depending on who you are.

But if your cat is grooming themselves on your lap, this is a big show of trust for their human. After all, you don’t see your cats grooming themselves on just anyone’s lap.

When an animal trusts you, body language changes. They become relaxed, dismissive of their surroundings, and fully submerged in the moment.

Knowing your little one is so sure they can rely on you must make you feel like a million bucks.


When Is Grooming a Problem?

Your cat grooming themselves on your lap is often a wonderful sign that your guy or gal is totally at peace and enjoying life. But, as body language tells us, that isn’t always the case.

Excessive grooming can indicate that there is an underlying problem that could potentially need addressing. You know your cat better than anyone so you can definitely tell the difference between a relaxed bathing session and a frantic one.

a Siamese lynx point cat lies down on the floor sprinkled with catnip and lick her paw
Image By: Pixel Cat Photo, Shutterstock

Here’s when grooming can be problematic.

Problematic Grooming
  • Anxiousness: You might know that your cat is a bit neurotic already, but how much is normal and how much is too much? Anxiety can sometimes cause your cat to obsessively lick themselves. Some cats are naturally more cautious, reserved, unsure, or unsettled than others. It’s just part of their character. Licking can be a self-soothing mechanism to channel energy. While licking in itself isn’t a big problem, hair loss and skin irritation can be. However, if you’ve noticed that this obsession is causing hair loss or other concerns, it might be time to speak with your vet. They might help you recognize triggers or administer anti-anxiety medication to control these impulses if they are really serious.
  • Pain: If this obsession with licking is new, it might signal an issue with pain. Some cats will clean relentlessly in response to a physical trigger, so it’s important to note any new behaviors. Related pain can be external or internal, so observe your cat for changes. If you can’t see anything visibly, don’t rule out an issue. It might require extra examination or testing from your vet. Some pain-related issues to over-grooming include joint and muscle problems, organ malfunctions, oral syndromes, and dental decline.
  • Skin Problems: Skin problems can range in severity and complexity, but some known triggers are pretty easy to diagnose yourself. For instance, if it’s springtime and you forgot to use flea treatment, it might be a flea allergy or infestation. Alternatively, it could be a response to a food or environmental allergy. The trouble with allergies is that it can be really hard to pinpoint the root cause sometimes. Your vet might run tests or try food trials to fix your cat’s problem once and for all.



So,  now you know that grooming on your lap typically represents good things—comfort, relaxation, trust, companionship—the works! In simple terms, it means your cat loves you and knows that they can count on you.

However, if it seems like a negative or sudden change, look for underlying triggers. If you can’t seem to find a solution, it might be time to schedule an appointment to get to the bottom of it.

Featured Image Credit: Sathaphorn Suriyon, Shutterstock

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