Have you ever wondered why your cats groom each other? Cats that are bonded sometimes show sweet displays of affection toward each other, like grooming. They'll lick and bite each other, clean the other's fur, and spend a lot of time making sure the other cat is purrrfectly clean. This type of grooming is a good sign—it means your cats are friends.
Cats That Groom Each Other Are Typically Bonded Friends
If cats groom each other, it generally means they really like each other. In feral communities, cats only groom other cats within their colony.1 This same idea translates into the lives of indoor cats, too.
Cats that don't get along or have territorial issues will rarely lie close together and groom each other. Sometimes cats can be so territorial and suspicious of each other that they'll start fighting if one accidentally touches the other cat's paw. It's a good sign if your cats enjoy being in each other's personal space. Even if they bite each other a little while grooming, it's still perfectly normal.2 Grooming just means they're friends. (This is why, by the way, your cat might try to groom you, too.)
Mutual Grooming Can Help Your Cat Clean a Hard-to-Reach Place
You might notice that when one cat grooms the other cat, it's typically on areas like the top of the cat's head, face, or ears. Those areas are tougher to reach, so they're helping each other out.3
Mother cats clean their newborns to help them breathe, and later on to help them learn how to groom themselves. So grooming starts as an affectionate way for a mother to help her kittens. Perhaps that is why adult cats continue the tradition with other cats they trust.
Can Cat Grooming Be a Sign of Dominance?
Even though cats only groom each other if they're friends, it can also be a sign of dominance. Researchers have found that cats that are "higher-ranking" in a colony are more likely to groom the lower-ranking cats, just like a mother grooms her kittens.4
Cats are also predators, and they may groom themselves to remove strong scents that could alert their prey. For this reason, if a cat is offended by the scent of another, he may do some light grooming just to get rid of the smell.
Calming Diffusers Can Encourage Bonding
If your cats aren't grooming each other, calming diffusers can help encourage them to see each other as part of the same "colony." The diffusers can also help calm stressed cats that are excessively grooming themselves or other cats. A cat's well-being is connected just as much to his emotional health as it is to his physical health. Comfort Zone products help cats feel safe, happy, and calm using signals cats understand.
If there's some tension—either in the form of not grooming each other or grooming too much—try setting up Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffusers around the house. You might also give your cats Comfort Zone Calming Collars to wear. These products mimic a cat's natural pheromones and can go a long way in helping with your cat's e-meow-tional health and well-being.
Cats May Sometimes Play Fight after Grooming
Sometimes cats that groom each other will suddenly start to "play fight." This may simply be a case of over-stimulation. Cats can sometimes become irritable or stressed around people if they are touched for too long. Usually, they first try to communicate this by twitching their tails. If that doesn't work, they may end up scratching the offender. That's why if one cat grooms another for too long, the two cats might start play fighting.
If you see your cats grooming each other, be glad. This means your cats are bonded and have an e-meow-tionally healthy relationship.
1. McCracken, Susan Logan. "Why Do Cats Groom Each Other?" Catster, 4 March 2020, https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/why-do-cats-groom-each-other.
2. Paoletta, Rae. "Why Cats Lick and Bite You, According to Science." Inverse, 8 May, 2018, https://www.inverse.com/article/44533-why-do-cats-lick-you-science-explains.
3. Animal Planet. "Can Cat Grooming Keep Your Cat Healthy?" AnimalPlanet.com (Slide 4 of 6), http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/why-cats-groom-each-other.
4. McCracken, Susan Logan, https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/why-do-cats-groom-each-other.