If you live in a multi-cat household, you may have noticed your cute kitties licking and grooming each other. Referred to as allogrooming, this same-species licking behavior is actually quite common among felines.
In addition to licking, a cat will bite at the fur to try and find fleas or other skin irritants.
While your pet parent mind may instantly jump to the conclusion that your cats are licking each other out of affection, this is not always the case. Let’s explore all of the reasons cat lick and groom each other to give you a better understanding of your fluffy fur-ball friend.
1. Social Bonding
One of the main reasons cats lick each other is to create a stronger social bond.
In a 2004 study, scientists from the University of Georgia observed allogrooming among felines in free-roaming kitty colonies. Cats outside of the colony were not licked or groomed until they were fully integrated into the community.
The researchers also observed that the grooming recipient would rotate or tilt their head to make the process easier for the groomer. Cats within the colony would also solicit grooming from another feline by flexing their neck or back. Cats have a tough time reaching these particular body regions, so the grooming may be for practical hygiene purposes as well.
2. A Motherly Instinct
When a newborn kitten enters into the world for the first time, she is often met by her mother’s tongue. Mama cats will thoroughly clean their babies right after they are born to rid them of birth smells that could potentially attract predators. By the time she is four weeks old, the kitten will be able to lick and groom herself, and she’ll spend up to 50% of her life doing so.
So cats may groom and lick each other to calm, protect, or comfort their feline housemates.
In multi-cat households, the dominant feline in the home will groom the others to reinforce her position within the hierarchy. Your more submissive kitties will even solicit grooming from the alpha cat.
Some experts theorize that the dominant cat will groom others to establish her rank instead of picking a fight in which a kitty could get hurt.
Fighting After Grooming?
The reason can be traced back to the old adage, “Too much of a good thing.” The recipient of the licking may have lost her patience and wanted the groomer to stop. While grooming is a form of bonding, every cat has its boundaries.
Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? The Bottom Line
Cats will lick each other as a part of allogrooming, or same-species social grooming. Cats will do this to show affection, to establish a social order, to strengthen bonds, or to simply get hard-to-reach areas clean.
If you witness your cats grooming and licking each other, do not interrupt them, unless a post-grooming fight occurs. Simply consider the act an expression of love between two good friends.
Featured Image: Paddy and Dushi, Flickr