Ask A Vet:Why Does My Cat Lick The Air When I Scratch Him?

| Published on June 4, 2016

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Have you ever wondered why some cats lick the air and even sometimes vocalize when you scratch them? Your cat might do similar behaviors and you have never really thought about it. But there is a reason that cats react this way to being scratched.

Cats communicate using non-verbal communication.  Even though they are not always an animal that prefers a family group, they all remember being a kitten and living in a family group.  Many of our pet cats never really mature past that family group stage and see us as siblings or parents. This behavior is very likely an act of “mutual grooming”.

In the non-verbal animal kingdom, mutual grooming is a sign of affection that strengthens family bonds on behalf of both contributors.  It is shared between parents, offspring and other family members. The act of licking and being licked stimulates a release of positive hormones for the participants.  Studies have shown that for many species, social grooming stimulates oxytocin (a hormone associated with bonding and emotional attachment). A release of oxytocin is like a burst of loving feelings so cats may feel a drive to stimulate it.

Whatever you think is your cat’s reason for reacting this way to your touch, studies have definitely confirmed that it’s good sign–a positive response of the cat to an action of a familiar human, someone she trusts to show her vulnerability.

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