Cats have something of a reputation for being solitary, aloof and isolated creatures. While it is undoubtedly true that they are more selective with their affection than dogs, the truth is that many cats will relish in some attention, enjoying belly rubs, ear scratches and curling up to sleep on your lap— on their terms, obviously.
You may also find yourself with a cat who licks or nibbles you. These are all attempts to groom you, as you are clearly a huge, hairless cat who is not smart enough to undertake this necessary task. As well as keeping humans in line, you will notice that cats also enjoy grooming one another. Known as ‘social grooming;’ or ‘allogrooming,’ there is a range of reasons behind this action, from practicality to education, to good old fashioned affection. Here are some of the top reasons cats like to groom each other—some of them may surprise you!
They Have a Close Bond
Sibling pairs, parent and child, or simply cats who have been raised together for a long time—all of these groups will have close relationships with their fellow cat, and grooming is a way in which this is expressed. It shows that they have developed a strong and loving bond, trusting each other to access their head, face, and ears. These are vulnerable areas, as the ‘groomed’ may not be able to see what is happening. Allowing another cat to groom them is the ultimate display of trust and is very sweet to witness.
They Are Mirroring Their Mothers
Birth is messy, and mother cats will spend time cleaning and grooming their kittens to remove the blood, gore, and associated mess which comes with entering the world. In addition, this action helps the kittens to smell like their mothers and the rest of the litter, and this makes it easier to identify them as belonging. As they get older, cats will mirror this action with their peers, making sure they can be recognized and marked as a member of the same pack. Some cats will even take this to the next level, and try to groom you into submission!
They Need a Hand
Sometimes the reason is simple; It can be hard to wash yourself! Areas such as the top of the head, the back, the base of the tail, and so on are tricky to reach, and so cats will seek out the services of a pal to help them out. This is commonly seen with younger and older cats. The younger will push their face into the others space, in a clear sign that they need a hand in staying clean.
They Are Asserting Dominance
Sometimes, grooming other cats is a sign of the alpha cat asserting his or her dominance. As we mentioned, grooming helps to transfer the smell across the pack and allows the head cat to take control of the overall scent. Only higher ranking cats will groom others – so, this can work as a clear display of dominance and authority.