Licking Comrades: Unpacking Cat Behavior


Why do cats lick each other? you might ask. While licks between felines might seem strange to us, they make perfect sense in the cat world.

After all, cats rely on scent as one of their primary ways of communicating with each other and the licking that takes place helps both parties understand more about the other—from health status to family affiliations and territorial claims, just to name a few.

Licking communicates important information about these things, so why wouldn’t cats partake in this practice?


A lick by any other name…

When cats lick each other, they’re usually doing one of two things: either they’re grooming each other, or they’re expressing affection. In the former case, licking helps remove dirt and debris from their fur comrade’s coat.

It also helps spread natural oils throughout their friend’s fur, which can protect them from the elements and keep them looking sleek. For the latter reason, licking is often part of a cat’s bonding ritual with its favorite humans and animals.

Cats who like to groom themselves will sometimes continue this practice on those around them. Licking can be thought of as a way to say I love you. Some people theorize that cats lick to release pheromones in order to communicate with others in their social group.

Regardless of why they do it, though, there are plenty of reasons why we should let our pets indulge in this behavior!


When cats don’t lick each other

Inter-cat licking behavior is often a sign of affection, but not always. If you notice your cats licking each other less, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

There are several reasons why cats might not lick each other, including:

-They’re feeling ill

-They’re stressed out

-They don’t like the taste of the other cat’s fur

-They have a flea or tick infestation and they can’t groom themselves well enough to get rid of them 

-Their water dish isn’t being kept clean and they’re licking dirty water 

-The litter box isn’t being kept clean and they’re licking smelly waste

-There’s been a change in household members which is making the home unfamiliar to them

-One of the cats has a medical condition that prevents him from grooming himself properly (e.g., arthritis)

-One of the cats has just had an episode with another cat, human, or animal in the area outside

Regardless of whether your kitties are licking each other more or less than usual, if you see any changes in their habits it’s worth talking to your vet about what might be going on.

Cats rely heavily on tactile senses for communication, so maintaining healthy social interactions between our furry friends is crucial for both their physical and mental health.


In the name of hygiene

Though we might think of our feline friends as clean creatures, they’re not above a little self-grooming. In fact, cats often lick each other as a way of maintaining hygiene.

By licking each other’s fur, they remove dirt, debris, and even parasites. And when one cat licks another’s face, it’s often a sign of affection.

So next time you see your cats licking each other, don’t be alarmed. It’s just part of their normal behavior! Cats can become quite fond of each other (even though they can also be aggressive) and licking is an expression of that fondness.

They may also lick to show another cat’s dominance or to assert themselves if they feel threatened by the presence of a new animal in the house. However, excessive licking could mean there are health issues at hand so always make sure to consult with a veterinarian if this becomes persistent.

The same goes for any noticeable changes in appetite or urination. If you notice anything out of the ordinary happening in these areas, head to the vet without delay. Licking itself is a healthy activity, but only if done within reason.

If your cat begins licking excessively or all over its body, it could indicate a problem like fleas or an allergy. In addition to taking them to the vet, have their blood tested and try using anti-itch treatments such as Benadryl cream on them.


It brings out good moods

Cats often lick each other as a sign of affection. It’s their way of showing they care. When your cat licks you, it’s a sign of trust and respect. Similarly, when one cat licks another, the gesture can signify companionship or appeasement.

In this sense, licking is a form of grooming that helps maintain health through the removal of parasites or dirt from the fur. Licking also stimulates circulation to the skin by increasing blood flow.

Plus, cats are thought to have an instinctual need to ingest salt, which is often found in sweat. A friendly feline-licking partner may be attempting to re-establish contact with his prey so he doesn’t feel so alone.

Another theory suggests that some cats lick each other for reassurance or security because there is no scent on the tongue after licking like there would be if the cat were self-grooming.

Some speculate that licking could function as social grooming behavior to reduce stress levels. Other research indicates it might provide pain relief from areas such as wounds, insect bites, abscesses, and arthritis.

One study even suggested that licking involves a grooming behavior mediated by substances released during salivation. So while we don’t know definitively why our furry friends do what they do, we now have more insight into why cats lick each other. 

The reason behind this behavior is not completely understood but scientists theorize that it could be due to a number of reasons including marking territory, establishing dominance, showing friendliness, or anxiety reduction among others. 

While we don’t know exactly why cats engage in these behaviors definitively, we do know a few theories behind the possible motivations for this behavior.


The truth about love darts

Darting into a relationship may not sound very romantic, but for some snails, it’s the best way to ensure genetic compatibility. These love darts are harpoon-like projectiles that some hermaphroditic creatures shoot into their potential mates.

And while most of us know that cats don’t have penises (at least, they don’t have penises in the same sense humans do), they also produce sharp barbs on their tongues called papillae to inject fluid when licking other cats or people.

The fluid contains pheromones, hormones, and proteins which can cause pleasurable sensations in other animals and potentially trigger ovulation.

Cats will often lick each other’s faces after grooming, too, an act that is believed to show gratitude and appreciation for the cat who groomed them. Cats will sometimes use their love darts as weapons against smaller animals like mice or birds by shooting them with their tongue or claws.

They might even do this if another cat shows aggression towards them during playtime.


It’s a social thing…or is it?

Sure, cats licking each other can be a sign of social bonding. But it can also be a sign of something else entirely. Let’s explore some of the reasons why cats might lick each other.

First, grooming is an important part of cat communication and helps establish hierarchies among members of the same group. Cats will sometimes groom themselves to clean themselves and their fur.

However, when another cat licks them afterward, this is seen as a friendly gesture – not one that aims to clean them. The act essentially means I like you. Another reason for the behavior could be related to food.

Cats often have great senses of smell which allow them to detect who has eaten recently or even what they ate! When they go over someone with their tongue, they’re trying to get a taste of what they had for dinner so that they can determine if they want any (or are willing) to share in such an intimate way.

It also seems that adult cats enjoy licking babies because it reminds them of how mom would clean them up after feeding time. As kittens, we all know how much we love having our ears and bellies cleaned by mom…so does mom!

In fact, she probably enjoys it more than us since she doesn’t need to worry about getting hairballs from her own cleaning efforts.


Bringing on the purrs

Sure, you may have seen your cat licking their own fur as a way to groom themselves. But have you ever wondered why cats also lick each other? While licking is a form of grooming, it is more than that for our feline friends.

There are various reasons for this behavior that range from affection and stress relief to establishing a social hierarchy among fellow felines. Cats will often groom one another’s faces and necks in an effort to establish dominance or simply because they want the other cat’s scent on them.

In addition, cats use saliva as a natural antibiotic to help heal wounds. Licking each other’s paws can help remove dirt and debris while licking between toes helps keep those digits free of bacteria that could lead to infection.

Grooming can also be used to relieve anxiety. When you see your kitty cleaning themselves and then giving someone else a good ol’ fashioned tongue bath, it means they’re probably trying to make sure their human companion feels loved too!

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