There’s a special, biologically intimate relationship that animals have with their own kind. Dogs sniff at the butts of stranger dogs in search of their anal sacs, and the secretions of the chemicals within—it’s their version of a handshake, and gives pups an idea of what to expect from one another in personality and poo. Primates pick, combing each other’s skin and body hair for debris and bugs as part of a cleaning ritual. When horses look like they’re hugging (aw!), they’re using their teeth to nibble and scratch for parasites, while aligning themselves to their social group. Birds preen themselves and their pals—using oils produced by their “preening gland”—to look their best. Wild cats use head-rubbing to create a group scent or assert dominance, and lick only those in their group unless they’re brought into captivity. You get the idea.
Most of this is social grooming, and doubles as a bonding ritual between animals of the same kind. (Humans obviously do this, too, via cuddling and scratching and hugging and the like.) Sometimes this social bonding ritual will cross species. Domesticated pets living in the homes of their doting, middle-class owners enjoy affection from their human slaves, while still mostly grooming themselves, for example. It’s likely that you have pet a cat, and also seen a cat lick themselves clean, and that’s because adult cats spend 3o to 50 percent of their lives doing just that. It is in their nature to do so. Sometimes they will lick you, too. That said, as much as you might want to, you should never lick your cat back. Never. Even if the tongue you’re using to lick your cat is not your own.
Let me explain.
A new product for the pet-obsessed, grossly named the “LICKI Brush,” is currently raising money to produce an item that allows humans to “lick your cat, like a cat.” The tongue-shaped “brush” is made from silicone, a very popular material used in the sex toy industry, and has small barbs on it to mimic the texture of a real tongue. It is about 10x the size of the average cat’s, and comes with a mouth grip for the insane to bite down on as they move their face back and forth over their cat, presumably emulating the motion of licking. (Why they could not simply hold this brush is beyond me.)
A demonstration of the LICKI Brush reveals that licking looks very different than I thought it did.
Perhaps it will look less creepy if Kelly Ripa does it on a mechanical cat?
It should be noted that social grooming often triggers a release of beta-endorphins in animals, which cause relaxation and pleasure. This is why social grooming in primates is often a pre-coital activity. Here are several more people using the LICKI Brush on their feline companions.
It’s likely that you’re open-minded as far as your kitty is concerned. As you should be—it’s 2016, taboos be damned! But also, there is no way your cat loves you enough justify turning yourself over to true madness. Maybe just buy another cat, and let them lick each other.