Why Do Cats Groom Each Other? Grooming Behavior Explained

Scientists refer to this behavior as allogrooming or social grooming, and it's believed to be related to a cat's maternal instincts.

One of the main reasons cats groom each other is to express social cohesion among a group of cats. It’s basically their version of social bonding.

Cats groom each other for a variety of reasons. Most people may think that it’s a display of affection, while that’s true, it’s not the only reason.

Fun Fact: A group of cats is called a Clowder!

Why Do Cats Groom Each Other?

Grooming begins after a mother cat gives birth to her kittens, and she will continue to groom her kittens until they eventually learn to groom themselves.

This behaviour will then be learned by the kittens as they grow up, and they’ll start doing it with other cats.

Fun Fact: Social grooming is known as Allogrooming!

It is the mother cat that usually grooms other cats, however, male cats also express this behavior. This mutual or cooperative grooming among cats occurs mostly between related cats or those who get along well.

If cats groom each other, it means that they enjoy being in each other’s company. On the other hand, this also means that you won’t see cats groom other cats that they don’t know or like.

Cats usually groom each other on the neck and head areas. This might explain why most cats like being scratch in these areas. Cats are also cooperative while being groomed, and they will often rotate their bodies or tilt their necks.

Aside from social bonding and connection, cats also groom each other simply to clean themselves. Think of it as their way of taking a bath. A mother cat will also lick her kittens to control their temperature and help them stay relaxed. 

Some people believe that grooming is a way for cats to redirect their aggression. There are times when showing aggression may not be convenient for a cat, so instead of exerting energy to fight, a cat would just groom another cat. This allows a cat to show dominance without having to risk getting injured in a fight.

Grooming among cats follows a particular hierarchy. It’s often the higher ranking cats that groom the lower-ranking ones and rarely the other way around. Similarly, it’s mostly adult cats that groom younger cats and kittens.

Why Do My Cats Groom Each Other Then Fight?

When you see cats fight after grooming, they may not actually be fighting. Despite the hypothesis that grooming is their way of redirecting aggression, it’s rare for cats to fight after grooming. 

Source: https://twitter.com/FelineEngineer1/status/1105907067569741836/photo/1

Most of the time, you won’t have to worry when your cats seem like they’re fighting because they’re probably not.

Cats will typically run around and chase each other, and they’ll sometimes even kick each other and wrestle. But all of these are just their way of playing with each other.

However, there are some cases wherein grooming may result in a real fight. Although allogrooming is an expression of social cohesion, it may still reflect underlying aggression.

In fact, research shows that 35% of social grooming manifest antagonistic behavior, and it’s more often the groomer who express aggression than the cat on the receiving end of the grooming.

When cats play with each other for far too long, the other cat may get impatient and annoyed. A cat may also sometimes make a bad move that may annoy the other cat, which could then result in a fight.

If your cat is acting out regularly, there are some training techniques you can use. Check out this article here on ways to discipline your cat. Yes, it’s possible to train your cat!

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other’s Private Area?

Aside from grooming each other on the neck and head, you may frequently observe cats licking each others’ privates. 

It may seem gross and icky when a cat licks another cat’s genital area, but it is one of their ways of grooming themselves. It also helps them remove dirt or discharge from their genitals.

It’s mostly male cats that express this behavior, but a lot of mother cats will do it to their young. 

A mother cat will often lick the privates of her kittens, especially early on when her kittens are not yet capable of doing it on their own. 

However, be wary when a cat licks its genitals too often. Excessive licking of a cat’s genitals may already be a sign of an underlying problem, which may require immediate medical attention.

Why Do Cats Bite Each Other’s Necks While Grooming?

You may notice your cat biting itself while grooming. This usually means that it’s trying to remove something from its fur.  

Cats don’t have thumbs like humans, so they devise other ways of cleaning themselves. This is why besides using their barbed tongues, cats also bite or nibble on their fur.

This same idea applies to allogrooming. If a cat is unable to clean another cat’s fur through licking only, it will resort to biting or nibbling, which is perfectly harmless.

Moreover, grooming usually involves playing afterward. Cats may start to bite each other while playing because it’s their instinct to do so. We can look at it as their way of practicing their hunting skills. 

This kind of play allows cats to learn their boundaries and limitations. Biting another cat too hard may annoy or hurt them, so eventually, they’ll learn how to bite without causing harm. 

If your cats often become aggressive while playing, you might have to consult with your veterinarian regarding its behavior.

What Does It Mean When Cats Groom You?

The reason why cats also groom humans is just as complex as the reasons why they groom each other. It’s one thing for a cat to groom another, but it’s another for a cat to groom you.

Cats will groom you for many reasons, but the most common one is to show you affection. When your pet cat grooms you, it’s simply a way for them to show you that they trust and love you. 

It’s their way of affirming that they consider you as part of their family and that they enjoy your company. Of course, you won’t really get any cleaner when your cat grooms you. It’s more of a symbolic display of their affection towards you.

Grooming your cat in return can strengthen the bond between you and your kitty. Set aside a little bit of time every week to spend grooming your cat. Make sure you use a suitable high-quality cat brush.

This act may also be a sign of anxiety or stress. Some pets who experience anxiety and stress may try to calm themselves by grooming their owners because grooming can be comforting for the groomer too.

If your cats lick you excessively, it may be a sign of a behavioral problem. The best way to discourage this behavior is by not letting them lick you. 

When your cat attempts to lick you, try to leave immediately. This way, your cat will be conditioned to not lick you. This may take some weeks or even a few months to have any effect.

Another reason your cats groom you is that they’re stressed. Your cats may be in constant stress due to the environment or due to being in an uncomfortable situation.

This can trigger them to lick and groom you. If this is the case, it’s best to figure out what the exact trigger is. It could be other animals or people that your cats are unfamiliar with within the house, or it may be because of the temperature or smell.

The idea is to be observant of your pet’s behavior always. They do things such as grooming for a variety of reasons, and they groom other cats and people for different reasons. 

Want to understand your cat a little better? Check out one of my other articles here on cat language.

Why Does My Cat Lick My Hair?

Cats lick their owners’ hair for the same reasons they groom their owners. It’s either their way of showing affection or their expression of stress and anxiety. 

What makes the hair their specific target for licking is because it closely resembles fur. Of course, your hair has a very different texture compared to cat fur, but it’s the closest one that cats associate their own fur with.

When this happens, it’s advised that you give them a toy for them to lick and chew on. 

Why Do Cats Knead?

Besides licking and scratching, you may sometimes see your cat push its paws into things alternating left and right. 

This is called kneading, and people on the internet sometimes call it “cats making biscuits”. That’s because when cats knead, the motion of their paws resembles that of a baker kneading dough.

They stretch their legs and their paws look like their squeezing something alternating left and right.

This is perfectly normal behavior, and cats usually do this on soft objects like pillows, blankets, and even on people.

There are many hypotheses about why cats knead. The most popular one is that kneading is a behavior that can be traced from kittenhood.

Kittens knead their mother’s tummy to get milk, and this instinct may have stuck with them into adulthood.

Another speculation is that this behavior can be traced way back from cats’ ancestors. This speculation claims that kneading may be based on the nesting behaviors of cats’ ancestors.

Cats might have developed this behavior because of their habit of flattening grass to serve as a soft place to rest on.

Many people also think that kneading may sometimes be just a way for cats to stretch. Stretching is not only relaxing but it’s also beneficial. Kneading may just be a way for cats to casually stretch and feel good.

Conclusion On Why Do Cats Groom Each Other

So there you have it, cats groom each other for a variety of reasons including social bonding.

Scientists refer to this behavior as allogrooming or social grooming, and it’s believed to be related to a cat’s maternal instincts.

Whatever the exact reason may be, one thing is for sure, it’s very cute!

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