Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? – Mutual Grooming

Cats have a very rough tongue that they use to lick themselves to maintain proper hygiene. Still, cats will also groom each other. At first, you would think that they’re trying to maintain the cleanliness of the other cat’s fur, but why would they do that when each cat has its own tongue anyway? Licking can go on for hours, and if you have cats, you’ve most likely seen this behavior many times. It really spurs your curiosity and makes you want to find out why licking is such a common occurrence in your four-legged friends.

So, are you curious about why your cats are licking each other all the time? Let’s take a look at the information below, and you will find out.

Why Do Cats Lick Themselves?

Why Do Cats Lick ThemselvesBefore looking at what causes them to lick each other, let’s see the reasons why cats lick themselves. Basically, a cat’s tongue is made of small barbs that are very useful in removing the excess falling hair accumulating. Therefore, when a cat licks itself, it’s all part of the grooming process, which includes going over all of its fur to get rid of the extra hair.

Another reason why your cat might lick itself is out of stress. Licking serves as a way of relaxation because it takes them back to when they were being cared for by their mother. At the same time, doing this too often is not a good indicator either, because the cat might be too anxious, which means there’s a mental or physical problem causing it.

Cats could also lick themselves to regulate their own body temperature. Kitties lack sweat glands everywhere except for their paws, and if you’ve ever seen your cat licking its paws, it means it could’ve been trying to cool off during hot weather.

Fur licking can happen various times throughout the day, including after eating their meal, to get rid of any potential leftovers that decrease their hygiene.

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?

Now that we established some reasons why cats lick themselves, let’s get to why they lick each other. In this case, it can be a part of the grooming process, but there are other reasons behind this behavior. So, here are some of them;

  • Part of the Family

In case you’ve had a female cat giving birth to babies, you’ve surely seen her licking the little kittens, and to no surprise. After all, what mother doesn’t love her babies, right?

Whereas licking can indeed occur as a way to show love, there are other reasons as well. For instance, a mother cat will lick her kittens in order to identify them as a part of the family, as well as mark her territory on them. Basically, the latter is a way to warn others not to get close, or she’s ready to unleash hell to protect them.

What would be concerning is when a cat doesn’t lick her kittens at all. When licking doesn’t occur, the kitten might suffer a change of smell. As a result, it might get rejected by the mother, which puts the little one in great danger. This is why licking has such great relevance. Baby cats would be abandoned and possibly die if their mom rejects them.

In addition, the kittens do not have fully developed bowel movements, so they need stimulation in order to pass any waste products. This takes place during the first weeks of their lives.

  • Hygiene

Sure, cats can lick themselves already and get rid of the hair or food remnants, but they aren’t always able to reach every spot. For example, there’s no way they could reach the top of their heads. So, they’re going to need a friend that can help them do the job and so, a licking session occurs.

Usually, a cat will push its cheeks, head, ears or back of its head into its cat buddy’s face, implying that it would like some help with maintaining hygiene. It’s the only way they can clean those annoying hard-to-reach spots other than using their freshly licked moist paws.

For hygiene, you can also aid your cat. Read my blog posts “How Often Should I Bathe My Cat? – Do Cats Need Baths?” and “How to Clean a Cat Without Bathing?” to find out how!

  • Dominance

Why Do Cats Lick Each OtherDuring a grooming session, one of the cats may be the one that is dominant in the process. In general, this is a way to make the difference between higher-rank and lower-rank cats. Dominant cats would lick the neck and head area and take higher postures compared to the other cat that is sitting.

Also, some cats use grooming as a way to show dominance because they don’t want to potentially start a fight, which could lead to one of them getting severely injured.

  • Bonding

This one maybe isn’t such a surprise, because just like dogs, cats can use their tongue to show affection. Whether they’re part of the same family or just happen to live in the same environment, licking is a way to say “Hey, I love you!”. It’s also a way to show they trust each other a lot, especially considering they entrust the other with vulnerable body parts, like the ears, head or neck.

Moreover, your cat might be licking you too, which is a way to show you that they value and trust you and recognize you as a part of the family. Through licking, cats leave a particular smell on the subject, just like it’s happening with the mother-baby situation. Through that, they can identify each other as a part of the family – this is why felines would use their tongues on each other.

  • Protection

If you were thinking of bringing a new cat in a house where other cats have established their territory, this could be a little bit of a problem. Not only could one or more of the cats find it hard to socialize with the newcomer, but the new one will also feel afraid because it is in another feline’s territory. This is why knowing how to introduce a new kitty to the family is such an important matter.

If your cats suddenly start licking the new one, it’s a good sign. It means they’re taking it into the family and protecting it from danger. Moreover, it could also mean they’re taking it under their care in order to show it the rules of the house.

  • Health Issues

In some special situations, a cat might lick another one due to the existence of some illness. Generally, when this is the case, the one doing the licking will focus on one specific area, where the other cat is hurt. Besides being a way to treat an injury, it could also point to heart failure, kidney problems, and many other health issues.

Given their affection for each other, cats will lick a sick or injured family member to offer them some comfort during those hard moments. It’s important to remember that your cat should be taken to the vet if one of your other felines is licking it intensely in one specific spot.

Why Do Cats Groom Each Other and Then Fight?

Sometimes, you might notice that a boxing match follows a licking session. Cats surely love grooming and showing affection, but sometimes, it becomes too much. When it becomes like one of those annoying relationships where partners can’t stop being glued to each other all the time, they will try to break it. So, when licking is followed by a sudden hit, it means that the cat has had its dose of love for the time being.

Even so, it doesn’t always mean they could be fighting because grooming has become bothersome. There are moments when they will engage in play fighting, which isn’t uncommon in cats, thus nothing to worry about. It’s important to know the difference between real and play-fighting unless you want your four-legged friends to get hurt. If it gets to squealing, hissing and even worse, fur flying around, you need to intervene and establish peace.

In some rare cases, fighting after a grooming session could be an indicator of disease detection. Maybe they’ve stumbled upon infection or wound, which is what caused them to suddenly stop the licking. If something of the sort occurs, you should closely examine the cat to see if something’s wrong and take it to the vet.

Final Thoughts

Pets are amazing, but sometimes it’s just hard to understand their behavior. When you have cats and they lick each other all the time, there may be many reasons for that – such as hygiene, bonding, protection or even a hidden health issue. It’s important to discover the potential reasons so you can figure out the relationship between the felines you love so much. This type of behavior could also tell you if one of them needs immediate vet care.

Hopefully, you’re now aware of what makes your kitties start licking each other all of a sudden, and you will know the overall situation regarding the bond between your cats.

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