Licking – Why Does Your Pet Do It?
Whether you’ve got a cat, dog, or bunny, there is likely to be licking involved in their interaction with you. What does it mean, though? How about when they lick other things? You’re questions answered about all that pet slobber!
Busting the Licking Mystery
Aside from grooming themselves, the average rabbit does a whole lot of licking. Rabbits practice altruistic grooming when bonded with another rabbit – or an “FLR” (funny looking rabbit) = YOU! They are social and territorial animals with a defined hierarchy. There is always a dominant rabbit, and this dominant rabbit must be groomed by its subordinates (again, you…). However, once a rabbit has picked its partner, they will return the grooming and you may get a good bath once in a while! While rabbits typically only have one bonded partner, they will frequently lick objects around other rabbits to show they are fond of them, while maintaining their dominance. Rabbits often lick items that belong to their favorite people, and frequently explore the world with their little bunny tongues!
Cats too, lick to show affection. Their affection is always as limited as the rabbits though and they may have many people or other animals that they are fond of. Grooming solidifies bonding and is a great compliment. Cats also really like salt and humans (especially after a sweaty day) will often taste salty. Unlike rabbits, cats will not frequently lick inanimate objects, unless they have something tasty on them! On rare occasions, a cat may lick/groom out of anxiety. If you notice them licking compulsively to the point of bald patches in their fur, they are likely trying to comfort themselves and it’s important that you talk to your vet about underlying problems.
Dogs might be the kings of licking. They need few reasons to break the slobbery tongue out to show you, or sometimes anyone, a little affection. Like rabbits, they lick for affection. Like cats, they also lick for salt. Dogs will often lick to get your attention too, though you may not always realize it. If they start licking you for not other apparent reason, see if you can figure out if they need something. While not given the credit of a cat or rabbit, dogs will also groom themselves some with their tongues. Dog saliva also contains healing and antibacterial enzymes that make licking wounds a vital part of the healing process.
photo credit: Laughing at you via photopin (license)