Dear Dr. Fox:
We have a 5-year-old calico cat. We rescued her at 7 months from an animal shelter. She has turned into a lovable, happy cat. However, she has one bad habit that we cannot break.
She is obsessed with licking my husband's legs. He has very dry skin and applies lotion nearly every day. She doesn't lick my legs, so we think it's definitely the lotion she's after. Can you shed some light on this obsession with the lotion? Is it harmful for her to be licking it, and can we break her of the habit?
Boynton Beach, Fla.
I often receive letters from people who have cats like yours, eager to lick skin lotions and facial creams from their human companions. Rather than thinking you need to be cleaned (as a mother cat that washes her kittens), your cat probably thinks it's some kind of food.
Some ingredients in the lotion probably give off scents of various animal fat and protein byproducts that your husband is putting on his legs.
However, other ingredients, especially petrochemicals, could make your cat sick. I would try coconut and shea oil butter, which will not harm your cat. Avoid products that contain synthetic fragrances.