Understanding Felines: Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?
Did you know that a cat’s tongue is covered with hundreds of little spines made of keratin, known as papillae? If you’ve ever paid close attention to your cat’s tongue, you might have found yourself in awe of its amazing features.
And cats themselves seem to be aware of their tongues’ unique properties. That’s why this organ is one of their most necessary tools.
You’ve probably seen your kitty groom itself all day long, but why do cats lick each other? If you’ve never thought about why this happens, this article’s here to shed some light on it.
Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? 5 Reasons
1. Mothers Take Care of Their Kittens This Way
Ever since they’re born, kittens depend on their mothers to provide them with shelter and food. But they also need their moms to take care of their fur. Newborn kittens are blind and weak, and they still don’t know how to keep themselves clean and healthy. That’s why their moms always come to their rescue.
By grooming her kittens, a mom cat cleans their fur but also stimulates their bowels. As a result, the kittens can easily pass stool and urine. And by licking her younglings’ fur, a mother cat leaves her scent on her kittens. This special way of marking “territory” also helps a female cat bond with her babies.
2. Cats Groom Each Other to Keep Their Fur Clean
You probably know that felines licking their babies’ fur isn’t the only example of allogrooming in cats. As you’re about to see, such behavior is also typical among cats that don’t come from the same family.
If you’ve ever adopted several felines of different breeds and generations, you might have also witnessed them grooming one another. That’s because cats seem to enjoy helping other cats keep their fur spotless.
Especially if your cat gang members spend most of their time outdoors, they probably come home with messy fur. And regardless of how bendy a cat is, it might not be able to reach all the dirty areas alone. That’s why you’ll often see cats licking each other’s ears, head, and upper back. After all, no animal cares about its hygiene as much as a cat does.
3. Felines Lick One Another to Relax
Our feline friends seem to enjoy both the result and the process of cleaning their fur. Just think about how often your cat grooms and for how long, regardless of its fur already being spotless.
That’s because the act of grooming seems to help a cat relax and relieve stress. Licking other cats appears to activate the same centers in a cat’s brain, helping it stay calm and happy.
That’s because this act probably reminds cats of the time spent with their mother. Most of the time, you’ll be able to differentiate this stress-relief licking from other grooming types, as a cat would lick another cat’s paws or the sides of its body.
But at times, this can even become obsessive, which can further indicate that your cat has some mental or physical issues.
4. Licking Is How Our Feline Friends Establish Dominance
Another reason your cat likes to lick other felines seems to have something to do with its ego. Let’s face it — you’ve probably never seen a cat not trying to be the center of attention. Sure, cats like to think humans are their servants, but they also enjoy dominating their little feline world.
As it goes, cats that lick other cats are likely trying to establish or express their higher rank. Just like a mother cat grooms her younglings, more dominant cats do this to other members of their feline group.
That’s why you may sometimes see a kitty rebelling against another cat licking them. At times, they’ll even get offended and try to get rid of another cat’s scent by grooming their own fur.
5. Kitties Bond by Licking Each Other
Last but not least, licking is a cat’s way of expressing affection. Have you ever been so lucky as to get a kiss on the cheek from your feline friend? If so, you don’t have to doubt their love for you anymore. The same thing goes for allogrooming in cats.
You’ll often see a cat welcome a new member of a group by licking its head. But most of the time, two cats will groom each other when they’ve been close friends or living together since birth.
One of the possible reasons might have to do with evolution. As it goes, social cohesion and friendliness toward other group members allow a cat to share its shelter and resources with them.