Why Does My Cat Lick Furniture? Furniture Licking Explained

If you’re a cat owner, you’ve likely caught your feline friend licking or chewing on your furniture. This strange behavior leaves you wondering – why do cats lick and chew on furniture? What’s behind this peculiar habit? 

There can be several reasons why your cat might lick furniture including boredom, anxiety, or a need for attention.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll explore the intriguing world of cat behavior to understand the motivations behind this peculiar action and provide insights into your cat’s unique habits.

Why Does My Cat Lick Furniture

Reasons For Furniture Licking

Cats are renowned for their unpredictability, which makes understanding their behavior all the more challenging. Furniture licking is one such quirk that may leave cat owners scratching their heads. To unravel the mystery, we must delve into the intricacies of cat behavior and their evolutionary instincts.

There are several possible explanations for furniture licking in cats:

Instinctual Grooming

Licking is a natural grooming behavior for cats. Their rough tongues contain papillae – small hooked barbs that act as a hairbrush to remove loose hair and dirt from their coat when grooming. Cats spend up to 50% of their waking hours self-grooming.

Your cat may see your furniture as an extension of its environment that also needs cleaning. The texture of fabric, leather, wood, or upholstery can appeal to their instinct to lick surfaces. Cats enjoy kneading and scratching these materials too.

Scent Marking And Territoriality

Cats have scent glands in their mouths, cheeks, tail area, and paw pads. When they lick objects, they deposit pheromones from these glands. This “scent marking” labels areas and objects as their territory and helps them feel more secure in their environment.

By licking your furniture, your cat is claiming ownership and dominating the territory. This territorial marking also sends a subtle message to other cats that may visit.

Attention Seeking

Furniture licking when you’re around could be an attempt to grab your attention and interact. Cats often engage in attention-seeking behaviors like meowing, nudging, and chewing when they crave playtime, petting, or feeding.

Try scheduling more regular interactive play sessions to satisfy your cat’s needs for stimulation and bonding. This may reduce the urge to lick furniture for your attention.

Stress Relief

For anxious cats, licking or nibbling behaviors can be self-soothing, similar to nail biting or thumb sucking in humans. The rhythmic motion helps relieve stress.

Environmental changes, lack of routine, or insufficient enrichment can cause anxiety. Introducing more mental and physical stimulation through toys, cat trees, and playtime can help curb stress-related licking.

Dental Discomfort

If your cat persistently licks or chews one particular spot, they may be experiencing dental pain or discomfort. Applying pressure with their tongue can provide relief.

Schedule a vet exam to check for dental disease, mouth injuries, or abscesses. Treatments like tooth extraction, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medication can address oral pain and irritation.

Dangers Of Furniture Licking

While occasional licking is normal, excessive or prolonged furniture chewing can be problematic. Here are some potential risks:

  • Damage To Furniture – Cat saliva contains enzymes that can break down materials over time, leading to deterioration or staining.
  • Harm From Ingesting Fabrics/Dyes – Some fabrics and dyes release toxic chemicals. Eating them could cause vomiting, diarrhea or even liver damage.
  • Intestinal Blockages – Cats who swallow large pieces of fabric, stuffing or wood can suffer obstructions.
  • Dental Damage – Constant chewing and licking can wear down tooth enamel or fracture teeth.
  • Electrocution – Chewing electrical cords can expose live wires and cause severe burns or death.

So while it’s common, furniture licking should be discouraged to protect both your possessions and your cat’s health.

How To Stop A Cat From Licking Furniture?

If your cat can’t resist a good lick or chew session on your homewares, here are some training tips:

Provide Appropriate Alternatives

Give them acceptable textures to satisfy the urge to lick and chew. Great options include:

  • Cardboard scratch pads
  • Catnip-stuffed toys
  • Natural sisal rope
  • Seagrass mats

Rotate these items frequently to keep them interesting.

Monitor Stress Levels: Pay attention to any potential stressors in your cat’s environment and work on reducing them. Creating a calm and secure space can help alleviate anxiety-related licking.

When To Seek Help

Consult your vet if:

  • Licking seems compulsive or excessive
  • Your cat swallows fabric or stuffing
  • There’s damage or bleeding in the mouth
  • Licking starts suddenly or is localized to one spot
  • Chewing co-occurs with other symptoms like appetite loss or lethargy

Get professional advice to identify and address any underlying physical or behavioral issues. Medication may be prescribed in some cases to treat anxiety or compulsion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Cat Lick And Chew On Only One Spot?

Targeted licking of one area could indicate pain or skin irritation. Dental issues, allergies, parasitic infections, wounds, or musculoskeletal pain can provoke spot licking. Veterinary exams can pinpoint the cause.

Is It Safe For My Cat To Lick And Eat Upholstery And Fabrics?

No, ingesting upholstery, threads, ribbons, and fabrics can cause severe intestinal blockages or toxicity requiring emergency surgery. These items are not digestible. Remove and deter access to avoid hazards.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Chewing Electrical Cords?

This dangerous habit risks electrocution or burning. Use cord covers, cable protectors, or twist ties to conceal cords. Use bitter deterrent sprays. Provide alternative chewing toys. Restrict access to rooms with exposed wires.

Why Does My Elderly Cat Suddenly Lick And Chew On Fabrics?

In senior cats, excessive licking and chewing can signal cognitive decline, anxiety, boredom or failing vision/hearing due to age. Check with your vet and increase comfort, routine and enrichment for the elderly cat.

What Kind Of Chewing Toys Can I Give My Furniture-Licking Cat?

Great chewing toy options include cardboard scratchers, catnip-stuffed toys, seagrass mats, wicker balls, sisal ropes, and sturdy wooden toys. Rotate the toys to keep your cat engaged and interested.


Furniture licking is common but potentially problematic cat behavior. While occasional licking is normal, deter excessive chewing to avoid damage and health risks. Provide acceptable alternatives and use positive and negative reinforcement. Seek veterinary help if it becomes compulsive. With some training and enrichment, your cat can kick the furniture-licking habit! 

We hope this article has helped you understand the motives behind your cat’s weird furniture licking. With a little patience and redirection, you can curb this habit and save your furnishings. Let us know in the comments if you have any other cat care questions!

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