Anyone who’s witnessed two cats licking each other can testify that it is just about the most adorable thing ever. Most people do not stop at watching the cuteness unfold; they often wonder why do cats lick each other. It is because not all cats do this. In this article, we’ll discuss this behavior.
Why Do Cats Groom?
There are several reasons why cats lick themselves, which is, grooming. It acts to keep their fur clean and smooth and stimulate circulation under the coat; natural oils are distributed giving it that shine we know cats to have. Grooming also helps eliminate parasites that may have made a home on their bodies. On a hot day, this activity serves to regulate body temperature. The evaporating saliva cools down the body. Your cat won’t also get hairballs if it grooms.
It’s not all about cleaning themselves. An anxious, embarrassed or in conflict cat will lick themselves to calm their nerves.
Why Do Cats Groom Each Other?
The scientific term of cats licking each other is social grooming or allogrooming. This activity is not limited to cats only. Other mammals do this as a social activity to foster relationships and reinforce bonds and social structures. It usually happens to animals of the same species living in close proximity. You may have witnessed this behavior within monkeys in your local zoo, where they pick off fleas and other pests off each other’s fur.
Studies have been done to explain the reason behind allogrooming in cats. What was found is that in the case of mutual grooming, the efforts were concentrated on the head, ear and neck area. As you may already know, cats lick themselves as part of their grooming ritual. They do however miss a spot, or several for that matter. The neck and the head are quite impossible for them to reach and therefore they need the extra tongue to help complete the job.
This behavior would explain why your cat enjoys being pet around the neck, ears, and head. You may also notice that they’d push themselves on your hands and fingers as though they would wish you to dig in a bit deeper. Purring is often accompanied when this happens- it means that you’ve gotten the right spot. Another ‘odd’ behavior you may have noticed is your cat licking its paw and wiping its face with it. It is also a way to reach this hard-to-reach area.
Allogrooming takes place most frequently among related cats or those that get along quite well. It is perceived more as a mothering instinct though you may see male cats doing the same thing. Grooming also happens in ranks. A higher ranking cat, for example a mother, will groom their child a lot more than their child would even when they are adults. To know who ranks more senior, the one in a standing or sitting position doing the grooming to the one sitting or lying down has more authority.
Mothers will groom their kittens after birth to remove the fluids and other matter from their kitten’s fur. It is no different from other mammals. It’s not something learned; it is instinctual. It is also done to get their little ones breathing. That will continue for a few weeks to both keep their newborn clean and show them how to groom themselves. After feeding, a mother cat will clean the abdomen and anal area of her kittens to encourage them to pass waste.
If you observe your cat keenly, you’ll begin to realize that grooming is almost like a past time for them, right below sleeping. When it’s between two cats, it’s no different, but it is also how they show affection. To them, making sure that the other cat is clean is a way of showing that they care.
The most apparent reason that cats lick each other is if male and female cats like each other. Intercourse takes place soon after. Cat sibling may also participate in allogrooming as a way of looking out for and taking care of each other. A surprising fact is that male cats are quite tender when it comes to social grooming; they especially have a soft spot for their kin or those that are fond of them.
Grooming Followed By Aggression
Some of the things highlighted in this article make human sense, but there’s one baffling behavior humans are not quite able to grasp. Not all allogrooming is peaceful. In about 35% of interactions, researchers found groomers being aggressive toward those they are grooming. It happens when a groomer bites the partner after they are done grooming.
The unusual behavior of these cats is that once they are done, they groom themselves. That may be a self-regulation behavior since grooming is also calming. It may be a way of redirecting aggression especially in a case where the price of outright attack would be costly. So if you ever wondered “why do cats lick each other”, then there are several reasons as you have read.
How To Help Your Cats Groom
Sometimes cats just don’t get along. You can act as a mediator by dabbing some cat food juices on your cats’ hard to reach places. It will force them to lick off the fluids from each other. As mentioned before, grooming calms cats down. The act of grooming will help relieve tension among your cats leading to fewer confrontations and fights among them.
We hope that you’re able to answer the question “why do cats lick each other” should a child or anybody else for that matter asks you. It is often all too easy to dismiss animal behaviors as mindless. Understanding your pet helps bring an appreciation of just how complicated these creatures are. It also enables you to step in and groom your cat if it doesn’t have a partner or for one reason or another cat doesn’t want to help out in this essential activity.