Skip to Content

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? 6 Reasons Kitties Allogroom

It’s one of the sweetest sights…one kitten leans into another and begins to lick its fur. As cute as we think this behavior is, there is actually practical logic behind it.

So, why do cats lick each other? For our finicky felines, licking is key to grooming, which, as any kitty owner knows, cats are obsessed with. They’re not just randomly flinging their tongues across each other but engaging in an elaborate communication system.

Many people think that cats who lick each other are showing their affection. While this is often true, there are many different reasons behind this conduct. And fortunately, if you have only one cat, it is a behavior you can replicate.

grey cat licks grey kitten

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other – Allogrooming

Allogrooming refers to animals grooming each other. This is a social activity that also provides health benefits. It’s common in many species. Among domestic animals, we see it most often in our felines.

Grooming themselves and each other is a behavior that cats learn from kittenhood and continue to practice throughout their lives.

large grey cat licks ginger kitten

Allogrooming is a multifunctional behavior that has many advantages. Understanding it will help you decipher your own kitty that much better.

1. Mothers Care for Their Kittens

Kittens are born extremely vulnerable. They’re blind and deaf, covered in blood, and generally relatively weak. The mother cat compensates for this by allogrooming.

By licking her kitten, the mother removes the blood (the scent of which could attract predators) from the newborn’s coat. In doing this, she also ensures that the young cat smells like its mother. This way, the mother can quickly find her baby by sniffing it out.

grey tabby licks smaller tabby cat

Furthermore, allogrooming, in this case, stimulates the kitten’s urinary tract and bowel system. This helps the baby pass urine and stool.

Finally, licking her kitten establishes a powerful bond between the mom and baby. This is crucial for a baby cat who is totally dependent on its mother.

2. They’re Family

Because cat litters generally contain three to five kittens – and as many as 19 – these animals grow up very socially. Kittens learn to groom after about four weeks, and, naturally, they begin to practice on each other.

black and white tabby kitten licks another

While you may think allogrooming only happens between cats who are related, this isn’t correct. Cats groom their family not because they are related by blood but because they have a strong social relationship.

That relationship is likely to have been established from birth, meaning it is full of powerful instincts.

3. They Want to Bond

Felines groom other felines when they want to bond. So, if you have more than one cat and they’re not related, they may lick each other’s coats.

white and tabby cat asleep on each other

This is most likely to happen once the animals have known each other for a while or if they’re both still very young. You may also notice it when you welcome a new cat into the home: the established cats may be quick to include it with a lick on the head.

Forming a social relationship is an essential evolutionary strategy for many species. Cats are friendly animals who live in loose groups in the wild. Social cohesion allows them to share resources. Our domestic cats retain this instinctual pull towards bonding.

This is the same logic your kitty uses when she decides to give you a lick or two. She wants to bond with you by making you smell like her.

woman asleep with grey cat in arms

⇒ Got a new kitty on the way and looking for some names? Check out my posts on 12 Greek Cat Names , 11 Egyptian Cat Names, 12 Best Cat Food Names, 50+ Creative Names for Black Cats, 12 Bang On Irish Cat Names, 11 Movie Cat Names, 12 Sensational Siamese Cat Names, 12 Black and White Cat Names, 19 Awesome Bengal Cat Names, 11 Ginger Cat Names, 9 Best White Cat Names and the 16 Best Disney Cat Names

4. It’s a Display of Dominance

Experienced cat owners know that when it comes to their kitties, things are never as innocent as they appear. This is true of allogrooming, too, which is also a tool for establishing dominance.

two tabby kittens

⇒ Thinking about what kind of kitty you would like? Check out my posts on the 9 Most Expensive Cat breeds, 10 Snuggly Flat Faced Cat Breeds, 7 Strange and Weird Cat Breeds, 11 Indoor Cat Breeds, 14 Cutest Cat Breeds, 12 Most Friendly Cat Breeds, 8 Fluffiest Cat Breeds, 9 Super Cool Cat Breeds, 11 Rare Cat Breeds, 8 Small Cat Breeds, 9 Big Ear Cat Breeds, 13 Big Eyed Cat Breeds, 10 Tuxedo Cat Breeds, Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon, 9 Gorgeous Grey Cat Breeds, 8 Garfield Cat Breeds, Siberian cat colors, Maine Coon Personality and the ultimate Siberian Cat personality profile.

If you watch your cats when they lick each other, you’ll probably notice that there’s generally one cat who does most of the grooming. That is likely to be the dominant cat. Yep, even domestic cats maintain a hierarchy.

Research confirms this. Most grooming is unidirectional (only one cat is licking), occurs without invitation, and is most often initiated by the male/dominant cat.

5. Cats Need Help Grooming

Most people associate grooming with maintaining hygiene, and this is very true. Cats have a tongue designed for grooming. Their tongue can detangle knots and remove dirt from their coats.

black and white cat licks his paw

⇒ Keen to get a better understanding of why your cat behaves as it does? Check out my posts on What Smells do Cats Hate, Why Does my Cat Lick my Nose?, Why do cats roll in the dirt, Why Does my Cat Lay on my Chest , Why Does my Cat Sleep on my Legs, How Often do Cats Pee, How to Pet a Cat, Why do Cats Chase Their Tails?, What Does it Mean When a Cat Rubs Against you , 14 Sleeping Cat Positions, Why Does my Cat Sit on Me? , Why do Cats Purr when you Stroke them? , How to Train a Cat Not to Bite, Why do Cats Knead their Owners? , Why do Cats Arch their Back, How to Get a Cat to Eat, Why Doesn’t My Cat Purr?, Why Does my Cat Attack Me, Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? , What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks you? , Why Do Cats Bite Their Nails? and What Does it Mean when a Cat Headbutts you?

Thanks to their tongue’s design, they can also move a lot of saliva from their mouths right to their skin. This is important because spit has antibacterial properties and helps to regulate body temperature.

Because grooming has so many health benefits, our kitties need to do it. But like you and me, who struggle to rub the suntan lotion on our backs, there are some spots our cats just can’t reach. That’s where a helpful friend comes in.

Cats often lick each other on the head and the ears. True, this is where these animals like to be petted, but it’s also an area they can’t reach with their own tongues.

Beautiful grey cat smiling while being brushed

⇒ Looking for the perfect collar for your kitty? Check out my posts on 6 stylish leather cat collars, the 7 best GPS Cat Collar Options, 8 stylish and fun Christmas cat collar choices, 6 best flea collar for Cats, 4 best Cameras for cat collars and 6 Spooky Halloween cat collar options.

6. There’s a Health Problem

Cats also lick each other if the other is ill. In such a case, the one feline will concentrate on a particular spot with an injury or wound. This is how they try to comfort each other and heal any scratch with their antimicrobial saliva.

Veterinarian listening to cat's heart

⇒ About to become a fur parent? Check out my Complete Guide to How to Look After a Kitten.

If the cat receiving the allogrooming is looking unwell, it’s best to get a vet’s opinion. It could indicate something serious, such as kidney disease.

However, it could also be something more treatable, like a flea infestation. Cats who are stressed also tend to lick excessively, so it’s worth investigating if something may be causing anxiety.

grey cat licks its front paws

⇒ Check out my guides to the Best Cat Products, Travel Litter Box, and the Best Cat Litter

Even if there isn’t a particular diagnosis, excessive licking isn’t a great idea because it can lead to hairballs and balding.

Try to alleviate this nervous energy with a play session or provide a scratch post.

⇒ Shop US Scratch Post

⇒ Shop UK Scratch Post

⇒ Shop US Cat Toys

⇒ Shop UK Cat Toys

How Can You Simulate Allogrooming?

If you have just one kitty at home, don’t worry about him missing out. You can easily substitute another cat’s licks with some petting and brushing.

ginger cat being brushed

⇒ Check out my guides to the best treats for cats, high-calorie cat food, high fiber cat food, low protein cat food, best food for cats with ibd, best cat foods for older cats that vomit, best food for constipated cats, can cats each cashews, can cats eat raspberries, best kitten dry food and a complete cat feeding guide wet and dry food.

Cats like it when you stroke them because it’s similar to how they show affection for each other. They tend to nudge each other with their scent glands, which is why they often rub against your hand.

Stroking also reminds animals of their mother’s tongue licking them when they were young. This is a positive memory that makes them feel safe and cared for. In this way, you can fulfill your fur baby’s need for affection and bonding.

person strokes black and white cat sitting in lap

⇒ For all things fun with your kitty check out my guides to clothing for cats, the best toys for cats, great gifts for cats and my annual cat planner for kitty photo opportunities across the year.

As for the genuine health benefits of allogrooming, well, you need to brush your cat! Short-haired cats need to be combed through a few times a week, while long-haired kitties should ideally be brushed every day.

⇒ Shop US Self-Cleaning Cat Brush

⇒ Shop UK Deshedding Tool

Persian cats require much more grooming than other breeds. You should brush your Persian every day.

white-persian-cat on side lying on ground

⇒ For everything you need to know about taking care of your finicky feline check out my guide to How to Groom a Cat, Ultimate Persian Cat Grooming Guide, the Best Cat Brush, Caring for Cats guide and my quick cat check up guide.

Final Thoughts on “Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?”

So, why do cats lick each other? It’s a communication tool and a form of healthcare.

Between family members, alphas and subordinates, newcomers and old kitties, cats and owners…allogrooming is practiced in all of these relationships. This means it’s a regular part of your feline’s life (and yours).

Knowing why your cats behave this way means getting to know their most primal instincts. Now you’ll be able to ensure that your cat gets all the benefits of allogrooming — from another cat or from you!

Ginger cat licking its paw why do cats lick each other

⇒ Don’t miss my guide to buying Cat Walking products, the 7 Best Escape Proof Cat Harness options and the Best Carrier for Cats.

Please Note: This Why do Cats Lick Each Other post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not affect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Stares At You? 5 Reasons Why
← Previous
What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You? 7 Reasons Why
Next →

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Like this post? Why Not Share It?

Thanks for sharing