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I’m not sure why, but without fail, every time my cat starts purring he licks my lips. It’s not just a few licks either—sometimes he’ll do it for up to a minute or two, walk off, then double back for more licks a couple minutes later. Every single morning, he comes over to me to be pet, and as soon as he starts purring he goes for my mouth. He’ll come up to me at minimum 5 times for some extensive licking over the course of maybe 20 minutes. During these little sessions he often starts making bread as well, something I never see him do otherwise; kneading is almost exclusively associated with licking my mouth for him. Even if I’m sitting upright when I pet him and he starts purring, he’ll prop himself up with his paws on my chest and reach up to my mouth.

He started doing this pretty soon after I got him; he was two months old when I adopted him, and now he’s nine months. I’ve tried covering my mouth with my blanket before, but he’ll just nose and dig his way through until he has access to my lips. I’m sure it’s not a very sanitary habit, but I feel horrible pushing him away since he clearly enjoys it so much, and isn’t effective anyways—he just keeps coming back, or use a surprising amount of force while straining against my hands. Is there any particular reason he’s fixated on my mouth, and is it possible for me to redirect his focus to something else? Will he eventually grow out of this habit? Is it bad that I’ve given up trying to stop him and just indulge him at this point?

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  • I agree with the above answer. Also wanted to add that I used to have a cat who was obsessed with mint, including toothpaste, and my new kitten seems drawn to my lip balm. Maybe you're using a product that tastes or smells good to him. Just a thought.
    – KittyMom22
    Oct 19, 2022 at 9:56

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Should I make him stop?

While I don't think it's imperative to make him stop, it would probably be better if you did.

  1. The most concerning reason is such a behavior is unsanitary.

There are diseases like cat scratch fever that you can catch from a cat's saliva having contact with your mucus membranes, such as those in your mouth. Experts advise you to wash your hands after just petting a cat, so you can imagine getting licked on the lips is much worse. But on the other hand, realistically I think most cat owners don't go that far, and it's possible even with perfect compliance to still catch an illness from your cat, so it's up to you to assess the risk level you're comfortable with.

  1. Many cats also bite when they groom as well, so I would also be concerned about possibly getting bitten on the face. Though to be fair, if he hasn't done that so far, I think it's less likely your cat will suddenly start doing that.

  2. I would also expect getting licked on the lips quite regularly to not be something anyone would be too thrilled about.

Why exactly is he doing this?

It really is an unusual behavior, so I cannot think of a particular reason why your cat has become so fixated except that every cat has its own quirks and habits it picks up.

But there might be a discernable reason if you wear makeup or lip balm on your lips. Sometimes cats are inexplicably drawn to hygiene or beauty products, and will try to lick or eat them. If such is the case, he might stop if you simply stop wearing that, or at least take it off when you're at home and sitting around.

How do I make him stop?

  1. Redirect him if possible.

I think redirection would be the most ideal solution if you can figure out what might work. Unfortunately, the behavior is so odd, I'm not sure what could possibly serve as an appropriate substitute. But if you discover such an item, keep it on hand while you sit, and use it to physically block him from going for your face, and hopefully he will go for that instead.

  1. Gentle negative reinforcement.

If you can't figure out a way to redirect him, then this is one of the few cases where I expect negative reinforcement will be effective because he can't sneak off to do the behavior while you aren't looking. But the negative reinforcement can be very gentle, to be as kind as possible to the cat. For instance, I think gently restraining him when he comes towards your face will be enough. Most cats hate being restrained, and so this is enough to be a negative reinforcement. And when you feel he's no longer straining to come towards your face, immediately let go. If you're very consistent, hopefully he'll get the message that coming for your face just isn't going to work.

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Every single morning, he comes over to me to be pet

and

Even if I’m sitting upright ...

So... when all these happen, you are still lying on the bed, covered with your blanket, early in the morning. And because you do not know what happens, and because it is convenient for you, you assume that the cat wants to be petted.

I think that you are actually a very very lucky person. I am 99% percent sure that the cat is just asking you, VERY KINDLY, and VERY POLITELY, in the most EXPLICIT way for cat, that he is hungry. It is well known that cats really enjoy eating at any time of the day, and they are especially hungry in the early morning, after they did not eat anything for an entire night.

The internet is full of stories about how "violent" cats can be early in the morning, in order to make their masters give them food.

So, as a change, stop assuming that the cat wants pets, and believe that it wants food. And give him food. And then see what happens.

I feel horrible pushing him away since he clearly enjoys it so much

Again, I think that you seriously misunderstood him. You take his insanely advanced and unique politeness and political correctness as "joy". He most likely shows you your lips, simply because he does not know how to show you his lips. And even if he would bring his paw to his mouth, it will still be useless, since you are comfortable under your blanket, ignoring his hunger.

He needs to draw your attention, and he wants to transmit the idea of food. I cannot be sure if he is just lazy or very smart (or maybe both), but he found the way to do both (draw attention and ask for food) with one action (licking your lips).

Please change your strategy and your reaction to his behavior, and let us know if anything changes.

I wish you good luck, and a very long happy life with your so-much-gentleman cat.

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This is completely normal behavior. It’s social bonding and your cat is showing affection like he would with his litter mates or mother. If you prefer he not do it, turn your head and nuzzle him with the side or top of your head, use your hands to pull him off your chest and continue to pet him while on your lap. Be consistent and he will eventually stop. If you don’t mind him doing it then know that it’s normal and enjoy the bonding time. The risk of disease or infection is minimal; our body flora or “good bacteria” fight off the micro amounts of bacteria you might be getting from your cat.

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    Welcome to pets.SE! Thanks for this informative answer. Please add some source you have your experience from, a book, a website? Jan 2, 2023 at 15:43
  • Answers without sources will be deleted! Jan 3, 2023 at 14:23
  • Deletion without a better reason will be censured. Citations are great, but not everything needs, or indeed has, a clear citation and anecdotal observation that a behavior is common -- which this is -- is still useful.
    – keshlam
    Jan 28 at 16:37
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If you've watched cats interact, one of the friendly mutual-grooming gestures is licking another cat's face, especially before settling in for a cuddle. I'd say your cat is treating you as it would another cat. Since a kiss is a formalized grooming behavior, I'd say it's fair to consider this a kiss, just as a nuzzle or rub us equivalent to a hug.

(Now if I could just convince mine that licking the tender skin inside elbow, repeatedly in the same spot, isn't the best way to groom me... She doesn't have the most abrasive cat tongue I've encountered, but it still drifts from cute to uncomfortable after she's been doing it for a while.)

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