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4 Reasons Why Cats Lick Toes

4 Reasons Why Cats Lick Toes

Have you ever encountered a feline that is just obsessed with feet? While we know that these enigmatic creatures have plenty of strange habits, licking toes has got to be among the oddest.

And yet, this peculiar departure from their usual aloofness can be quite easily explained.

Why do cats lick my toes?

Some felines lick their owners to show affection and attachment, while others do so to mark their territory. Sick or apprehensive cats may use licking to communicate that they are feeling distressed or anxious. In some cases, maternal cats lick their owners to teach them how to “groom” themselves.

Your cat is showing you affection

Love comes in many forms, and in the case of cats, one of these is toe-licking. While this is not always the most pleasant experience given their rough tongues, it usually comes from a place of affection.

When our feline friends are just born and still in their early development phases, their moms use licking to show them that they are cared for.

As they grow older, they learn that this habit is a means to show appreciation. Therefore, if your cat is licking you, it may be a touching sign that they adore you.

If you’re asking yourself why they choose feet, in particular, the answer is quite a logical one. Our feet are usually the closest body part to them, making toes accessible for licking.

This is especially true if we are standing or walking, and our cats are trying to gain our attention.

Just as humans stroke and pet cats to show them love, cats may return the favor with some light grooming, and an occasional toe-licking session is no cause for concern.

However, should this behavior become obsessive or compulsive, it’s best to consult a vet, as an underlying issue may be developing.

Your cat is marking its territory

Housecats have been domesticated for thousands of years, but no matter what, their instincts remain intact, and one of these is a need to mark their territory.

In the case of cats, their territory includes their human, and a cat may use toe-licking to signal that its owner is out-of-bounds to other cats.

This is because they have a distinct scent embedded in their saliva that is transferred to their owners during a licking session. Other cats pick up on this scent and are alerted to the fact that a particular human is the property of a certain feline.

If this scent marker is on your feet, it’s right in the line of other cats that you walk past.

This habit is quite endearing. However, it can cause issues in households where more than one cat is vying for an owner’s attention.

In cases like these, the best way to prevent disputes is to ensure all cats receive equal attention.

Your cat is trying to tell you it’s feeling ill or distressed

Cats cannot vocalize when they are scared or sick, so they rely on other ways to show their owners that they’re not feeling well.

One of the ways they do this is through licking, and research has shown that this can make them feel a little better too!

Indeed, when cats lick their humans, they release endorphins which help to calm them down. If they feel a little anxious, they may turn to your toes to reassure themselves and feel connected to you.

Your smell can also bring them comfort.

Of course, it’s not always easy to distinguish why they are licking, but if the habit is out of the ordinary or becoming compulsive, there may be an illness or stressor at play.

Consider if there are external factors at play that may be making your cat anxious, such as drastic changes in their environment. Together with this, a visit to the vet for a check-up may be in order.

Your cat is teaching you how to “groom”

While your cat may mean the world to you, to it, you may seem like a very large creature that doesn’t know how to clean itself.

And by licking your toes, your feline companion is taking the time to teach you what it views as a very valuable life skill.

This is a huge compliment. Kittens learn about grooming from their mothers, so when their care instinct kicks in, they may attempt to pass this ability onto you.

It is a way of nurturing their owners and also speaks to a remarkable level of trust.

Frequently Asked Questions Why Cats Lick Your Toes

How do I stop my feline from licking my toes?

You can attempt to deter the behavior by, firstly, ignoring it. A lack of positive reinforcement will tell your cat that you’re not on board. Secondly, try using a cream or lotion with a citrus scent on your feet. Cats hate this smell and are unlikely to lick your toes if they pick up on it.

Why does my cat attack my feet?

Often, when cats detect slight movements, their hunting or playing instincts kick in, and they exert their prowess on the target in their view. Unfortunately, it is usually our feet that we unintentionally wriggle in bed or that they notice while we are walking by.

Why do felines sleep near my feet?

When cats sleep, they’re in a vulnerable state. Cats closely bonded to their humans may sleep near their feet because it makes them feel safe, and they find their owner’s smell comforting.


It is strange to think that a habit as bizarre as toe-licking can have so many different meanings. Needless to say, cats are not wont to do things for no reason.

Licking and grooming are some of the most prominent ways in which cats express themselves, and more often than not, there is no ill-intent.

As an owner, it’s good to determine what this kind of grooming means so that you can distinguish if it is problematic or not.