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Why Do Savannah Cats Lick You?

Savannah cats are interesting creatures. Their hybrid status — they’re half wild serval, half domesticated cat — means that they have many different traits that come from both their wild side and their domesticated side. One of these traits is that Savannah cats often lick their owners.

Savannah cats show affection when they lick their owners or the people they love. Savannahs only lick animals and people they like, so when they lick you, they deem you to be their friend. Cats can also “wash” or “groom” you, a polite way to claim you as their own property.

Cats are veryterritorial, and licking you is a great way to put their scent on you and deter any other cats or animals from getting too close. Below, we detail all the different reasons why a Savannah might lickyou — and what to do if it gets to be too much!

Why Do Savannah Cats’ Tongues Feel Like Sandpaper?

The first time you ever had a cat lick you, you were probably struck by the fact that their tongues feel like sandpaper. First time cat owners are always in for a little surprise, as it feels like they learn something new about their cat with every passing day!

Tiny Hooks

Savannah cats’ tongues are actually covered in little spines that look like tiny hooks when you look at them under a microscope. Called papillae, their tongues are made of keratin, which also makes up human fingernails. Thisis why their tongues feel like sandpaper when they lick you!

Their tonguesare actually really useful for cats, as they love to groom and keep themselves clean. Their tongue’s rough surface allows them to easily groom themselves and discard stray hair easily. Basically, their tongue acts as their own personal hairbrush. However, every cat owner knows that this loose hair can eventually return as a thrown-up hairball!

Cats And Their Unique Tongues

As you can see, a cat’s tongue is actually quite unique. It helps keep them clean and well groomed, something that all cat’s naturally love to be. However, it also helps them when it comes to their eating habits.

Domesticated cats used to be wild animals, so many wild traits are still passed down thanks to their genetics. Savannahs, which are half wild serval and half domesticated cat, naturally have more wild traits than their regular housecat friends. However, all cats have tongues that help them strip all the meat off of bones when they eat.

Obviously, many cats eat wet or dry food and therefore no longer use this trait to their benefit. Many Savannah cats, on the other hand, begin their lives eating raw meat — and some owners even choose to always give them a raw food diet. Because of their tongues, Savannahs can easily eat all the meat off bones, getting the most out of their food.

Reasons Why Savannah Cats Lick You

There are many reasons a Savannah cat might lick you. For the most part, this is them saying that they love and trust you. Cats only lick those that they feel safe with. So, if they’re licking you, this means that they love you, they trust you, and they want to show you affection.

Keeping Clean

Cats are often licking their own fur, as they are intent on always grooming themselves and keeping themselves clean. This action can also be done on other cats, as Savannahs will also groom cats they are close to, especially if they were raised with these cats or if the others are from the same litter as them. 

So, when they lick people, many assume that they are trying to wash or groom them. And, in a way, this is true. However, they don’t think you’re dirty. Rather they are washing you and leaving you with their scent, which is yet another way cats can mark their territory. And if you didn’t know, youare your cat’s territory!

Cats Marking Their Territory

You don’t need to have a crazy territorial cat to have a cat that likes to mark their territory. All cats do this! This can be done in many different ways, using both simple and complex techniques. In one of the simplest of ways, Savannah cats can mark their territory by rubbing up against furniture or even your own legs.

Licking you is also another way cats mark their territory, which we explained briefly above. Basically, a cat will show their affection by licking you, marking you as their territory in the process. They are washing you and grooming you because they love you, but also so their own scent stays on you.

In this way, you’ll walk around with your cat’s scent on you. While us humans of course can’t smell this, other animals and pets will be able to. So, if you’re ever trying to pet another animal, that animal will smell your cat’s scent on you, which was your Savannah’s plan all along!

They Want Attention

Cats tend to lick their owners as a way to show affection, but they can also start licking them when they want their attention. Has your Savannah ever just walked over to you and began to lick or even bite you? This could be a sign that they want attention, want you to pet them, or that they want to play with you.

If your Savannah immediately starts cuddling with you while they lick you, this is probably a sign that they’re looking for some petting and affection. If your Savannah comes at you a little more playfully and starts to lick and bite you, this could mean they’re looking for a fun playtime session!

Every cat is different, so your cat might never try to get your attention in this way. With Savannahs, they’ll often start acting very playful and even begin pushing things off of tables and counters to really get your attention. But don’t be surprised if they surprise you with a little grooming session of your own!

Licking Themselves After You Pet Them

Cats really love to groom themselves. They like to stay clean. Savannahs are like all cats in this sense, so don’t be surprised if your Savannah puts aside a good chunk of their day to groom themselves thoroughly.

Savannahs can also groom other cats, but only ones they like and deem trustworthy. And then there are cats who lick themselves after you pet them, exactly where your hand just touched them. While some owners may think their cat is being a little passive aggressive, your cat doesn’t actually mean to insult you!

They don’t think that you’ve gotten them dirty, they would just rather keep their own scent on them. When you pet them, you naturally leave some of your own scent on them, and some cats really don’t like this and will quickly right things immediately after being petted. But don’t worry — they still love you!

What To Do If You Don’t Like Their Licking?

Sometimes, the licking may become a bit much. Because this is a natural way that your Savannah cat shows their affection, you don’t want to scold your cat if you want them to stop licking you. You should also steer clear of putting on a lotion or scent that you know your cat won’t like to keep them away.

This could have the adverse effect of them steering clear of you altogether, and you obviously don’t want that! To stop your cat from licking you, don’t scold or punish them, but simply minimize the chances they have to lick you. Get up and leave them when you want them to stop. Eventually, they’ll realize that licking you will make you leave them and get them to stop.

Sometimes, petting them more can get them to focus on that attention, rather than trying to give you some. And, if all else fails, diverting their attention and playing with them — and therefore getting them into a playful mood — can help stop them from licking you incessantly. Just make sure you don’t scold them, as you never want to blame them for something that comes naturally to them!

Final Thoughts

Savannah cats are friendly, playful, and affectionate cats to their owners and those that they love. So, don’t be surprised if they start to lick you. This is simply one of the ways that they show affection! Cats only lick those that they truly trust and love, whether this be humans, other cats, or other animals such as dogs. They also form close bonds with those that they lick or groom!

Sometimes, cats will lick their owners if they want attention, would like to play, or are trying to mark their territory. Often, however, they are just longing for affection and looking to share their own love for you. If your cat’s licking ever gets to be a little too much, don’t scold or punish them. Instead, just remove yourself from the situation and they’ll eventually learn!