Aside from sleeping, eating and playing, there is another thing that cats most certainly love doing! That is, grooming themselves. If anything, grooming themselves is not enough, sometimes they go as far as grooming other cats as well! How cute and adorable right?
But I’m pretty sure there are many times that you’ve asked yourself why do my cats groom each other?
Did you know that research would tell you that cats would spend a good 15-50% of their lifetime grooming themselves? Is it some kind of special communication in the feline world, or is it simply about the other cat meaning to help the other cat in cleaning itself? Together, let’s find out!
Reasons Why Cats Lick Each Other
moms know best
Usually, you will see mother cats groom their kittens clean. I guess this occurs for obvious reasons like those cute tiny kittens are still unable to do themselves. As newborns, they are yet to develop that skill to groom themselves.
Mother cats grooming their kittens clean has a lot of purposes: first, keeping their kittens clean and to remove all the unnecessary elements in their kittens’ fur coming from birth; second, to teach their kittens on how to groom themselves; third, mother cats lick kittens heads and genitals in order to encourage the cats to excrete its waste.
You will notice that once the kittens grow a bit older, they would return the favor and start licking their mom as well!
Cats are givers
While cats love to groom themselves, they also love to groom other cats just so they can express how they feel towards the other cat. Usually, it is their way of expressing affection towards another.
You will soon realize that this is not only limited to other cats! Several cat parents have shared experiences in which their cat would out of the blue lick their heads as if grooming them as well. What did we ever do to deserve such loving creatures?
Cats can be really flexible if they wish to, but sometimes this ability of theirs also has limitations. Despite the immense flexibility, there are still hard to reach body parts that they are unable to clean thoroughly. This is where the other cat comes in! Usually, cats would clean the other’s head, especially the ears. That spot is really difficult to reach!
Now, let’s talk science
Fun facts! Did you know that this behavior in cats is called allogrooming? A study way back in the 90s attempted to have a better understanding of this behavior in cats, and the results brought about information about allogrooming or social grooming! It was a study implemented at the University of Southampton, UK and the University of Leiden, Netherlands. The study highlighted three findings.
Areas of focus
They found out that when cats engage in mutual grooming, they usually focus on areas such as the head and the neck. Earlier, we talked of cats cleaning off each other’s hard to reach areas. That is a probable explanation why findings show that the cats tend to focus on the head and the neck.
Blood is thicker than water
If you are a cat parent to many cats, belonging to the same families or not – you might have noticed that the mutual grooming usually happens to those cats that belong to the same family. Although, the study showed that while it usually occurs among same-family cats, it also happens among cats who get along really well. You might notice this behavior among friendly cat breeds if you have one.
You will notice that the usual set up when the grooming happens looks like this: an older cat cleaning off a younger cat, and the groomer assumes a standing position while the groomee sits or lies down.
Another interesting result of this study is that allogrooming is not always about quiet and peaceful bonding moments for cats, there were interactions that involved aggressive behavior in the cats. Those who groom other cats tend to exhibit a more aggressive behavior than those who are being groomed. Do not worry if your cat is showing some signs of aggression, there are ways to teach your cat to become friendlier.