This is an interesting cat topic so let’s dive straight into the reasons why cats lick each other and themselves.
Why Does My Cat Lick Itself?
There’s a hypnotic quality to the measured lapping of a cat’s tongue as it preens itself. You can easily hear it on a hot summer’s day as it sits in the sun’s rays grooming its limbs and undercarriage. It will even gnaw away at the fur between its toes and paw pads. The reasons your cat does this may include:
- To get rid of bits of food trapped around the mouth. This is an instinctive reaction to eliminating the smell of food that may attract predators; although nowadays, it will be to stop the dogs in the house from pestering them.
- A cat’s sweat glands are located in the soles of its feet. When it is very hot, your cat will speed up the cooling effect of the evaporation process by licking itself, especially the pads on the paws.
- Your cat finds it very relaxing to lick itself. Think of it as a form of feline meditation. They do it because it invokes a feeling of being mothered because that’s one of the first things they felt after they were born; the mother cat licks her young. However, watch out for signs of over-licking; it could mean your cat is suffering from extreme stress.
- Cats secrete an oily cholesterol from their skin. They need it to regulate their metabolism and calcium levels. When your kitty lies in the sun, this oil is converted into vitamin D3 (in the body it becomes a hormone). The problem is that the vitamin D3 sits on the fur and can’t be absorbed back into the skin. As a result, your clever cat licks its coat so it can ingest the vitamin orally. In fact, dogs and birds do this as well. So, now you know why there’s always a queue of animals waiting for the sunny spot in your house during the winter months.
Why Do Cats Lick Each Other?
As you can gauge from the previous section on cats licking themselves for comfort, licking is also how kittens bond with their mother cat. It is a necessary step in the rearing of healthy, well-adapted kittens. As soon as a baby kitten is old enough to grasp the concept, you will see it begin to lick its mother and siblings back.
The mother cat spends a large percentage of her time after giving birth licking her young because this not only cleans them but also identifies them to others as hers. It’s a warning to any other animal that these kittens are her babies and she will protect them at all cost. If a kitten does not get licked enough, it can even be rejected as the mother cat will not be able to identify it. That’s why vets recommend that all cat lovers keep their distance after a cat has littered so that the kittens aren’t tainted with a foreign smell.