Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? The Common Grooming Behavior, Explained

It’s not only about getting their feline siblings purr-perfectly clean when cats lick each other.
Your cats are at it again, snuggled up and licking each other when they’re not lounging by a window or napping all day. Those feline kisses can be extremely sweet one moment and almost compulsive the next. It’s undoubtedly one of those odd cat behaviors that can make you wonder what the heck is going on. Therefore, why do cats lick one another?

Cats Lick Each Other

We immediately turned to the professionals to help us comprehend this cat mystery. When you have the answer, go on to more important issues like why cats dislike water, knock things over, and are afraid of cucumbers.

Why do felines lick one another?

When two or more cats coexist, at least one of them will frequently lick the others, a practice known as “allogrooming.” All “social” animals, including primates, engage in this grooming practice. Cats are not the only “social” mammals that do this. Licking each other’s heads is a sign of trust and bonding in cats as well as affection. In terms of grooming, it’s also quite practical: “It’s a part of the body that cats can’t reach to groom themselves, so there might potentially be a usefulness to it—helping each other out in hard-to-reach regions,” says Seattle-based cat trainer LeeAnna Buis.


Additionally, cats lick each other for another reason that has nothing to do with grooming and everything to do with survival: According to Buis, the cat is “producing a shared fragrance that is particular to the group.” This group fragrance is crucial for recognition because cats use scent to distinguish between friends and enemies even before they can see. In essence, your cat has a programmed want to lick that dates back to its ancestors who were felines.

Do cats enjoy licking one another?

Don’t be shocked if you hear your cats purring softly as they groom one another. According to experts, it’s how they interact with people, and who doesn’t enjoy a good nuzzle now and then? According to New York City-based advanced feline training and behavior specialist Jennifer Van de Kieft, “it’s a method of displaying affection and it helps deepen their social link.” Of sure, kisses are enjoyable.

A maternal instinct is also present. When they are kittens, their mother will hold them down for a minute so she may give them a few fast licks before they rush away again, according to Buis. These recollections of kittenhood are connected to the mystery of why cats knead, another odd activity that soothes your cat.

Licking cats a sign of dominance?

It’s hardly your imagination if the licking ever seems violent. It’s possible that cats who share a home are determined to establish their dominance, as evidenced by one cat washing another. According to Bruce Kornreich, DVM, PhD, a professor at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and the director of Cornell’s Feline Health Center, “in some cases, a dominant cat may groom a cat that is ‘lower’ in social structure (subordinate), perhaps to establish or to reinforce their social dominance.”

It’s possible for some cats to come across as being more bold than others, but it doesn’t mean they’re actively planning to strong-arm, or in this case, strong-paw, another cat. The bottom line, according to Buis, “cats don’t actually have a social structure.”

Why do cats quarrel after licking each other?

Kisses and hugs aren’t always desired, despite the fact that they might be pleasant. According to Van de Kieft, a cat may hiss or swat in response to grooming if it doesn’t like it or thinks it’s too vigorous. This is done to show disapproval. And because some cats don’t want the fragrance of another cat on them, they just don’t want to be groomed—and aren’t afraid to let the other cat know.


Another explanation for cats’ constant licking each other is cat nervousness. This could start a conflict if done excessively. In essence, the like would be saying, “Enough already!”

Having learned why cats lick one another,

Learn more about other fascinating feline behaviors, such as why cats wag their tails and rub up against you, now that you know why cats lick each other.


  1. Seattle-based feline behaviour and training specialist Lee Anna Buis
    2. Advanced feline training and behaviour specialist in New York City, Jennifer Van de Kieft
    3. Professor at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and head of Cornell’s Feline Health Center Bruce Kornreich, DVM, PhD

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