Why Do Cats Groom Each Other? Allogrooming Explained

Russell Cargill

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

So why do cats groom each other then? 

Let’s take a closer look. 

Why Do Cats Groom Each Other?

Why do cats groom each other? It’s an expression of social cohesion among cats in groups also known as allogrooming or social grooming.

Grooming begins after a mother’s maternal instincts kick in once she has given birth. She will continue to groom her kittens until they eventually learn to groom themselves.

This behavior will then be learned by the kittens as they grow up, and they’ll start mutual grooming with other cats.

Fun Fact: Social grooming is known as Allogrooming. It is the female cat that usually grooms other cats, however, male cats also express this behavior. This feline behavior 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 a cat lick other cats 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 forming a social bond 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 some aggressive behavior. 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 a group of cats follows a particular hierarchy. It’s often the higher-ranking cats that groom the lower-ranking ones but, from time to time it can go 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 be fighting. Despite the hypothesis that grooming is their way of redirecting aggression, it’s rare for cats to fight after grooming.

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.

Scientific studies show that 35% of social grooming manifests antagonistic behavior, and it’s more often the groomer who expresses 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 move that may annoy the other cat, which could then result in a fight.

You can usually see this in feline body language if they have any pent-up aggression. 

If your cat is acting out regularly, there are some training techniques you can use. 

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other’s Private Area?

Aside from licking 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’s one of their ways of painting good hygiene. It helps 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.

Female cats will often lick the privates of their litter, especially early on when their 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 their head-neck area. 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 all part of a good grooming routine.

It’s common to see cats nibble and bite on each other’s ears when cleaning. You’ll want to make sure they do a good job otherwise it could be up to you to clean your cat’s ears.

Depending on the duration of allogrooming it will usually involve 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 their behavior.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Licks You?

The reason why cats lick humans is just as complex as the reasons why they lick each other.

Cats will groom you for many reasons, but the most common one is to show you affection and form a closer bond. 

It’s their way of affirming that they consider you as part of their family and that they enjoy your company. 

Grooming your cat in return is a great bonding experience between you and your kitty. Set aside a little bit of time every week to spend grooming your cat, just make sure you use a suitable high-quality cat brush.

It may also be a sign of anxiety. Grooming other cats or humans is therapeutic for them and is common cat behavior. 

If your cats lick you excessively, it may be a sign of a behavioral problem or something you want to avoid. 

When your cat attempts to lick you, try to leave immediately to discourage the behavior. 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 under constant stress due to the lack of cohesion in colonies.

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.

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 fur with.

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

Cats can also be attracted to new smells or the smell of the shampoo you’re using. If you think they’re attracted to the smell of your hair you can try to give them some catnip or a catnip toy as a distraction. 

Why Do Cats Knead – Making Biscuits? 

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

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

Social interactions like this are perfectly normal, 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 to 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.

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 reason, one thing is for sure, it’s very cute!


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