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Home > Cats > Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? 3 Likely Reasons

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? 3 Likely Reasons

bengal cat licking each other

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Allogrooming is the scientific word for a creature washing or grooming another creature. Cats notoriously engage in allogrooming, and it can leave cat parents mystified as to why they would go so far as to lick the dirt from another cat’s coat.

Here’s the science behind why cats engage in allogrooming.


What Is Allogrooming?

Allogrooming is the process of grooming another animal. Most animals engage in some level of allogrooming. For example, primates often pick bugs off each other’s fur; even humans are fond of brushing each other’s hair and bathing their children.

It’s accepted that once you reach a certain age, you need to be able to groom yourself competently. But that doesn’t mean that having someone brush your hair or help you wipe off your makeup is terrible. On the contrary, allogrooming is a social mechanism. Some studies show that it reduces tension and builds stronger bonds between creatures.

The 3 Reasons Why Cats Groom Themselves and Each Other

Cats can lick and groom themselves for hours. Studies show that cats spend as much as 4% of every day grooming themselves. With all that bathing, it’s hard to imagine having time to groom someone else, too!

Grooming is an essential function in a cat’s life as well. While grooming tends to appear rhythmic, the cat is acting purely on instinct. In addition, studies show that grooming is a goal-oriented behavior in cats. In other words, your cat is doing their grooming actively engaged in what she’s doing rather than passively or subconsciously doing it.

There are many reasons a cat may groom herself. Cats are known to groom pretty ritualistically during different times of the day, and those other times indicate a lot of her motives when grooming.

1. Heat Transfer

One reason cats groom themselves is to transfer heat out of their bodies. A cat’s sweat glands are located in the paw pads, and an exceptionally small amount of space is cooled through sweating. However, when a cat licks her side and leaves a trail of saliva along with her fur, that saliva evaporates and cools her body. This process is known as evaporative cooling. Humans sweat, cats lick, and dogs pant, but the goal is all the same: to keep from overheating.

Two ginger cats grooming each other
Image By: Films42, Pixabay

2. Self-Soothing

Licking is a feeling your cat is used to. From the moment she is born until she dies, she’ll experience a lot of love through being licked. A kitten can’t groom herself well, but her mother can groom her. Thus, she learns to associate grooming with her mother’s love and affection.

When your cat is nervous or anxious, she may lick herself to calm herself down. By licking herself aggressively, she simulates the comforting feeling of her mother’s love.

3. Grooming Other Cats (or People)

So, what’s up with grooming another cat? Most of the time, when cats engage in allogrooming, they’re doing it as social and bonding behavior. By grooming each other, cats can show affection and bond.

The behavior starts in infancy. For example, your cat was shown love through grooming since she popped out of her mother’s womb. So, when she wants to go and show someone else she loves them, she repeats the process of how her mother expressed love for her.

Additionally, cats can reach every part of their bodies efficiently. Finally, allogrooming allows cats to keep their notoriously pristine coats, well, pristine.

Cats may also groom each other for any reason they groom themselves. For example, on hot days, your cats may lay down together and groom each other to keep cool, or your cat may groom her brother if he’s feeling anxious or on edge.

cat licking human fingers
Image By: congerdesign, Pixabay



While it may be weird to humans to think about licking another person, this behavior is healthy and essential for your cats to engage in. Your cat uses her tongue to express her love for you and her siblings and to calm and cool her body. Allogrooming should be encouraged in cats so that they bond and develop close relationships.

Featured Image Credit: Ilona Koeleman, Shutterstock

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