When cats live together, either in the wild or around humans as pets, they tend to groom each other. Technically coined as allogrooming, we often mistake this behavior as something that cats do for their hygiene.
While allogrooming looks like the cats bathe each other, this behavior often takes place when a cat begins to lick certain body parts of another cat.
The parts that cats typically lick are the neck, the ears, and the top of the head. And, if you’re keen enough to notice, there is one thing in common with these parts.
Thus, people erroneously believe that allogrooming has to do with hygiene. So, what then is the reason behind this peculiar habit of theirs?
Well, if you’re ready to find out, this article will explain why cats do such behavior.
Why do cats groom each other?
Cats groom each other for social bonding and ranking. Another reason for this behavior is to allow the alpha cat to establish its dominance on the other felines in the area. The third reason why cats groom each other is to show affection. However, studies show no strong link between affection among cats and grooming. But, you can’t totally dismiss it because grooming will never take place between two cats if they do not like each other.
If you have only two cats in your household, you may not be able to witness allogrooming first hand.
You know why?
Cats will eventually get to groom each other because they have only each other. On the other hand, if there are up to five cats in your household, you’ll find out that cat A will single out cat C for grooming.
However, allogrooming doesn’t happen in an interactive manner. More often than not, you’ll find that between cat A and C, one of them will tend to groom the other more frequently than the other.
Thus, to initiate allogrooming for bonding purposes, one of the cats will need to approach the other while flexing its neck.
You must have seen a situation where a cat displays aggressive behavior towards another cat before initiating the grooming behavior.
If you do notice this behavior in your cat, then grooming is done to establish dominance. Usually, the dominant cant will display this aggressive behavior, not the other way around.
The less dominant one will submit himself for grooming as a way of accepting the dominance. If not, a fight could ensue between both cats.
And, this fight occurs as the cats compete for dominance. Whoever will lose the match will submit himself for grooming and after that, both of them will know their rightful places.
Show of affection
This is more like the social bonding kind of grooming but it is slightly different. Grooming for affection usually occurs between a mother cat and her kittens.
If you remember, the mother cat will lick all her kittens to clean them up after giving birth.
However, this behavior doesn’t happen between a mother cat and her kittens only.
Surprisingly, cats that belong to the same litter can also show affection to other felines by grooming each other. However, only domesticated cats groom for affection. Wild cats don’t do this.
Interesting facts about grooming among cats
Cats can also self-groom themselves
Apart from being groomed by other cats, every cat can also groom himself. Naturally, cats are clean animals and they’ll try to make themselves presentable all the time.
That’s why cats make great efforts to rid their fur of any blemish.
When dirty water splashes on the cat’s body, he will lick the spot continuously until the stain is gone.
But, if you don’t notice your cat licking himself for a couple of days, it may be a sign of illness. You need to take him to see a vet straight away.
One cat grooms the other more
When two cats groom each other, one of them does most of the grooming while the other stays on the receiving end.
And, in most cases, the dominant cat usually grooms the less dominant one.
But, as stated earlier, grooming will only happen if one cat invites the other for a grooming session. So, don’t try to force felines to groom each other. This behavior occurs naturally among them.
Being spayed or neutered does not affect allogrooming
Whether a cat is spayed or neutered, he will still engage in allogrooming as it’s part of its nature.
Furthermore, a spayed or neutered cat can engage in grooming behavior with a cat that hasn’t undergone the procedure yet.
Both wild and domesticated cats groom each other
Just as domesticated cats exhibit this behavior, wild cats also carry it out.
However, indoor cats do it more frequently than outdoor cats because they’re often together.
What is not clear, though, is if a stray cat will be allowed to groom when brought in among domesticated cats.
Gender has no role in allogrooming
Female cats groom each other, and so do male cats. Mixed-gender grooming is not uncommon too.
However, male cats groom female cats more than the other way around.
Cats often receive grooming from their aggressors
If a cat is often aggressive towards another cat, the less dominant cat will often get licked by the former. This is because the cat displays its dominance over the other feline.
An increase in the number of cat pairs living together boosts allogrooming
According to a study, it was found that when you increase the number of paired cats living in a place, the frequency of allogrooming will also increase among them.
To understand allogrooming more, 14 male cats and 11 female cats were left together in the same place for a certain period of time and the following happened.
- 65.1% of all the grooming that took place were between male cats.
- 31.3% of the grooming was between a male cat and a female cat.
- 3.6% of the grooming that took place were between female cats.
- 90.4% of the grooming was initiated by male cats.
- Female cats engage in increased grooming behavior when they are in heat.
- 78.6% of the grooming was given by higher-ranking cats to lower-ranking ones.
- Being bloodlines didn’t play any significant role. In other words, being the parent, sibling, or kitten of a cat won’t increase the chances of allogrooming with the cat.