6 Reasons Why Cats Groom Each Other

Have you ever seen your cats grooming each other? Does this mean they love each other, or is there another reason behind this feline behavior? Should you stop your cats when they do this, or should you allow it to continue?

Cats groom each other

In the article below, we’ll explore six of the most common causes of shared grooming in cats. With the help of this information, you can understand what your cats are doing and what they may be communicating to each other and to you through this behavior.

1. Communicating Relationships

One of the most common causes of why cats groom each other is communicating relationships. Cats use grooming to express their relationship to other cats between each other. For example, in a group of wild cats, some may groom others to show they are closer than other members of the same colony.

In a home setting, your cats may be telling each other that they trust and respect one another. However, they might also be communicating this to you. In other words, if your cats seem to be grooming each other in front of you most of the time, they may want you to recognize their relationship, too.

2. Bonding

Cats also groom each other because they are bonded with each other. Littermates and cats who have lived around each other for most of their lives may treat each other with this type of respect and admiration, and they may groom each other to show their bond outwardly.

Cats perform this type of social grooming because they want the other cat to understand they aren’t threatening. They also want the other cat to recognize the bond of their feline friendship and return it in some instances, too. This grooming may also indicate bonds to other cats who witness it.

3. Showing Dominance

In groups of big cats, such as prides of lions, cats groom each other to show dominance. If one of the higher-ranking cats in the group grooms a lower-ranking cat, this shows that the higher-ranking cat is in charge and the lower-ranking cat is submissive in response.

This behavior can sometimes be seen in domestic cats, too. Most of the time, this dominance-induced grooming only occurs in groups of three or more cats sharing the same territory—such as living in the same home. However, some groups of cats may never engage in this type of social grooming, and that’s okay, too.

4. Mothers and Kittens

Mother cats have an instinct to groom their kittens that sets in almost as soon as the kittens are born. The mother cat cleans the afterbirth from the kittens (if a human doesn’t do it for her) and also grooms the kittens’ rear ends to encourage them to potty for the first time.

This grooming instinct never goes away in many mother cats. Female cats who have had kittens are much more likely to groom other cats simply because of the presence of this instinctive behavior.

5. Acceptance

Cats may groom each other to communicate that they accept each other as part of their territory, colony, or “family,” so to speak. This is also one of the most common reasons why cats groom their human family members! Being groomed by a cat indicates that the cat does not see you (or the other cat) as a threat or a stranger any longer, but as part of the group.

If you have two cats who were adopted at separate times and have taken a while to get used to each other, it can be especially rewarding when you first see them grooming each other.

6. Cleaning Assistance

One final reason why cats may groom each other now and then is simply because they understand there are parts of the body that aren’t easy for them to reach on their own. Beneath the chin, for example, is an area that cats cannot groom by themselves, so they need others to help them along.

Since all cats have this same experience, they are likely to understand it in some capacity, as it relates to other cats. Cats are more likely to groom others in hard to reach locations for this reason.

It’s Very Normal for Cats to Groom Each Other

As you can see, there is no harm in allowing your cats to groom each other. This is a perfectly normal part of feline behavior, and it can indicate that your cats are bonded and close with one another. Although it doesn’t mean that they “love” each other in the way we humans understand love, it does mean that they are very close in cat terms!

If your cats are prone to grooming each other, make sure both of them are healthy and free of parasites before doing so. If one cat develops a skin or coat health problem, you may need to try to prevent shared grooming until the problem clears up.

Although this behavior is normal, if you have questions about your cat’s behavior or want to learn more about why cats groom each other, you should always consult with a veterinarian to get answers. At Heart + Paw, you can book an appointment at any of our locations and our team will be happy to provide insights into your pet’s behavior and health. 

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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