10 Reasons Why Cats Groom Each Other

Written by Sammi Caramela
Published: August 18, 2023
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You’ve likely noticed your cat grooming itself, but what about grooming other cats? If you own multiple cats, you might have often seen them licking each other. This common behavior is instinctual, meaning cats are naturally inclined to do this for various reasons. From a sign of affection to an establishment of dominance, this gesture conveys many messages.

Also called allogrooming, this social behavior is a form of caregiving expressed through physical contact. Keep reading to discover ten reasons why cats groom each other.

1. Grooming Is a Form of Communication

Grooming is a form of communication that packs various messages. For example, one cat might lick or clean another as a way to communicate their love and care for them; another cat might groom to express dominance over or acceptance of the cat.

Three cats of different colors and breeds, namely; Savannah, Bengal and British Short-hair cat chilling in a basket made of sheep wool.

Cats communicate with each other through a variety of actions.

©Arwen Matthijssen/Shutterstock.com

2. They’re Bonding by Grooming Each Other

Most simply put, when cats lick each other, they are bonding. Just as when humans hug, cuddle, or show physical affection, cats do the same through acts like grooming. It’s their way of showing their love, support, and care for one another.

Additionally, many cats will release pheromones when another cat grooms their face. The release of these chemicals can bond the cats even more deeply. 

Two three weeks old different colored kittens on a woolen blanket. Pet adoption, animal care.

Kittens often use scents to bond with each other.

©Olga Rolenko/Shutterstock.com

3. Grooming Establishes Dominance

Though grooming another cat is a positive sign of love and acceptance, it can also act as a signal of dominance. Those felines who view themselves as higher up in the colony or “family” hierarchy will typically lick or clean the lower-ranking cats to show them who’s in charge. This most commonly occurs in households or groups with three or more cats.

Cats on Tashirojima in Japan.

Many cats will attempt to develop a hierarchy in multi-cat households.

©iStock.com/Nozomi Sato

4. Older Cats Use Grooming to Mother a Kitten

Mothers will immediately and instinctively groom their kitties to clean the afterbirth from them. This habit also establishes the mother-baby bond and teaches them how to groom themselves. Grooming between a mother and her baby can be comforting for both parties. 

If you notice a mother (or older cat) grooming her baby (or another kitten you’ve brought into your home), this might be a sign that the groomer views the kitten as its own child. In other words, the older cat is teaching the kitten how to clean itself and communicating its care for the younger cat.

cat with kittens

Sometimes cats will even bite to protect things important to them.

©Esin Deniz/Shutterstock.com

5. They’re Accepting the Other Cat Through Grooming

Many cats will groom other cats as a way to symbolize their acceptance of them. This is why you might notice your cats grooming a new kitten you bring home. It’s their way of saying, “We accept you as part of our family.” 

Two little kittens sleep with their eyes closed and covered with fluffy blanket

Despite popular belief, cats can actually be quite cuddly — especially with each other.

©iStock.com/Olena Ivanova

6. Grooming Helps Clean the Cat

Some cats (especially young kittens or those who were abandoned by their mothers at an early age) need extra help grooming themselves. Other cats can pick up on this need and step up to the plate. 

Additionally, many cats will help others with hard-to-reach areas, such as the top of their heads, cheeks, or other areas of their face. You might notice your cat attempting to groom itself by licking its paw and rubbing it over its face; this doesn’t compare to a cat actually using its tongue directly on its face.

Two happy, friendly cats.

Allogrooming is a way to help each other self-clean more efficiently.


7. Grooming Is a Sign of Survival Instincts Kicking In

Allogrooming aids in survival. In fact, it can help eliminate fleas, ticks, and serious parasites. Instinctively, cats will groom themselves and each other as a way to stay safe and healthy. This is especially true for close groups of cats. Once your cats have bonded with one another, they will naturally feel protective over each other and help keep each other healthy. Often, this looks like excessive grooming.

Pair of cats licking each other

Cats lick each other for a variety of reasons, some quite surprising.


8. Grooming Helps Redirect Aggression

Sometimes, cats will groom other cats to avoid or calm aggression. Because groups of cats will often form hierarchies, with some cats attempting to establish dominance over others, they might groom each other to settle any tension.

European wildcats in its natural environment

Groups of cats recognize themselves as colonies, protecting each other from non-colony members.

©Jana Zamecnikova/Shutterstock.com

9. Excessive Grooming Can Signal Health Problems

Cats are sensitive beings. Oftentimes, they can pick up on other cats’ health problems or distressing symptoms if they’re spending time together. That being said, many cats will groom other cats who might be experiencing skin conditions/itchiness caused by parasites or allergens. Typically, if this is the case, you’ll also notice the cat who is being groomed is also scratching its own skin/fur or overly licking itself as well.

Black and white Thai cats lounging and relaxing together in the house. on the purple blanket They both wore yellow collars and silver bells.

Look out for other signs of flees or skin irritants, and consider visiting the vet if the grooming becomes excessive. 


10. They’re Calming Each Other Down Through Grooming

Often, grooming another cat can calm them or the other feline down. These calming diffusers relax the cat by allowing it to bond with others. In fact, if you notice your cat excessively licking itself, it might be for this very reason. Just as humans will hold themselves tight or even become clingy to other people when feeling anxious, cats will develop similar behavior to calm themselves down. This often involves grooming another cat.


Cats can help each other feel calmer and less anxious.


The photo featured at the top of this post is © bombermoon/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Sammi is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering cats, nature, symbolism, and spirituality. Sammi is a published author and has been writing professionally for six+ years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Writing Arts and double minors in Journalism and Psychology. A proud New Jersey resident, Sammi loves reading, traveling, and doing yoga with her little black cat, Poe.

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