Why Do Cats Groom Each Other?

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Ever noticed how two cats often spend time grooming each other?

This happens in many situations whether it’s outside with a big cat (lion) or an indoor cat. Certain tendencies are an essential part of their DNA and personality, which includes grooming each other [1]. However, most people don’t know why this occurs and often find it to be odd at first.

This read is going to take a look at why cats groom each other and why it’s beneficial over the long-term.

Cat Grooming

a cat with toungue out

In general, when cats groom each other using their tongue, it’s defined as allogrooming [2]. It’s a natural response and it can occur between any two cats even if they don’t bond well or don’t know each other.

With family members such as siblings or mates, the likelihood of grooming goes through the roof. Due to their mutual understanding and relationship, the cats will increase how often they groom each other throughout the day.

In some cases, it is also known as a way of asserting dominance over the other cat through grooming [3]. The cat that takes initiative and grooms the other immediately puts itself in a higher position. This has to do with grooming another cat and establishing a certain superiority over the other. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case and sometimes it’s simply instinct.

Cats groom each other using their tongue because it’s noted for having a coarse feeling. It can often be compared with sandpaper. There’s a certain graininess to it that can be painful when used against human skin. The same tongue works tremendously well when it comes to grooming cat fur.

The average cat won’t mind the grooming and will love the barbed feeling associated with cat tongues.

Studies have shown cats tend to increase the amount of grooming between each other when under duress. It is noted as being a “coping mechanism” for the stress as it helps settle them down.

Top Reasons That Cats Groom Each Other

1. Cleanliness

The main reason is as simple as cleanliness between cats.

Most cats will groom themselves using their tongue, paws, or teeth because it keeps them feeling good [4]. They like feeling clean rather than carrying around grime on their bodies.

Cats are noted for enjoying good hygiene practices throughout their lives and start at a young age. They will do this throughout the day and tend to cover as much of their bodies as they can. While it’s not always possible to reach certain parts of their bodies, they do try to get as much done as possible.

cats sleeping in a bed together

For those “hard to reach” areas, they will seek out a partner or friend that can do it for them.

The cats will then groom each other in those difficult areas and start to work away at the tangled fur, dust, or even unwanted hairs. The situation can vary but most cats will go through these steps while grooming each other.

The beauty of staying clean is knowing this is a potential option between two cats. They easily respond to this instinct and do it without thinking twice even when they’re not friendly with the other cat.

They will still come together and work away at each other’s fur to make sure it’s in good shape. To the average person, this is often an odd sight and it’s truly unexpected.

For the cats, they don’t think about it as much as humans would and simply go about their task like it’s a part of who they are.

Allogrooming is a great, natural option between cats but it’s usually not enough to keep them fully clean. They will still need human assistance to make sure their fur is in good condition and doesn’t start to break down.

To do this, most people will start using specific tools, shampoos, and other similar solutions to keep things as clean as possible. It’s all about having a well-rounded approach and that’s why cats don’t mind looking towards other cats for basic grooming needs.

2. Maternal Reasons

Yes, sometimes it’s as simple as a mother loving her child and keeping them clean. It’s similar to a human mother bathing her child early in the morning or late at night to make sure they’re as clean as possible.

A female cat is going to have a natural response to her kittens and one of her ways of showing this is to groom them. This usually begins as soon as they are born. She will begin to lick away anything that’s stuck to their body after birth. This allows them to warm up and feel better minutes after being born.

For the mother, it’s a wonderful way to show she cares for the kittens and wants to keep them as protected as she can.

It’s always smart to keep track of how much they groom each other. There are times when the grooming becomes excessive and that might be a sign of something being wrong. In such cases, it’s best to speak to a vet and determine whether it’s stress-induced behavior.

3. Affection

Cats love showing their affection and this is one of the ways they know best. They will go up to another cat and give them a lick.

It is a way for them to bond with each other, appreciate who is in their territory, and learn more about each other in an otherwise difficult way. It’s a great way for them to socialize and start to understand how to be around each other in the same home or area.

When this does occur, it’s okay to let them do it and watch from afar.

Final Thoughts

In general, it’s best to allow cats to groom each other especially in homes with multiple cats. They prefer doing it and it’s great for their psychological well-being.

Plus, it also makes life easier when it’s time to go through their daily hygiene routine as an owner.

Even if they give you a lick, it’s just a sign of affection and shouldn’t be taken as a negative.

Resources

  1. Josie F. Turner, Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? AnimalWised. Retrieved from https://www.animalwised.com/why-do-cats-lick-each-other-2570.html
  2. Rhino River Lodge, The importance of allogrooming, Africa Geographic. Retrieved from https://africageographic.com/blog/the-importance-of-allogrooming/
  3. Susan Logan McCracken, Why Do Cats Groom Each Other? Catster. Retrieved from https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/why-do-cats-groom-each-other
  4. Do Cats Really Get Clean By Licking Themselves, Healthy Pet Foods, Inc. Retrieved at https://www.healthypetfoodsinc.com/blog/2017/11/16/do-cats-really-get-clean-by-licking-themselves

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