Cat Behavior: What is Allogrooming? 
Thu, October 21, 2021

Cat Behavior: What is Allogrooming? 

 

Cats are known to be some of the cleanest pets that an owner could have. They are obsessed with grooming their own fur and can even spend more than half of their day doing just that by licking themselves or each other / Photo by: Xseon via Shutterstock

Cats are known to be some of the cleanest pets that an owner could have. They are obsessed with grooming their own fur and can even spend more than half of their day doing just that by licking themselves or each other. This behavior called 'allogrooming' can be traced back to the very first day they are born as little kittens.

If you live in a household with multiple cats in the house, chances are you have seen this puzzling behavior. Pet Side, the leading authority for all things pet related, providing useful guides, product reviews, and useful tips on how to be a better pet owner, mentioned on their website that many people don’t realize that the term grooming is different from allogrooming, because this is the scientific term used when one or more cats groom each other.

A natural routine

Licking fur, whether their own or another animal's, is part of a cat’s life. On the day a kitten is born, their mother cat knows to start licking the kitty’s fur to remove the amniotic sac and to regulate the kitty’s breathing. In a web post by The Spruce Pets, a website that provides tips about pet care, they explained that mother cats will give their kitten a “tongue massage” by licking their anus to help them regulate their bowel movement. 

Mother cats also use licking to teach their kitten to groom himself. When kittens are old enough to handle themselves, they will start to lick their own fur and other kittens' fur. When they grow older, they will return the favor to their cat parent and start licking their fur as well.

Grooming

Pawsome Kitty, an online resource for feline needs, said that even though cats have agile bodies that they use to move and perform impressive cabinet-climbing acts, there are areas of their bodies that they can’t reach. This is why they rely on other cats for fur-licking.

Allogrooming can happen among any group of cats, even if they are spayed or neutered. They also groom each other despite the other cat’s gender. Male-and-male grooming sessions are most popular among cats’ allogrooming, while females are not usually known to groom other female cats.

Cats groom their fur with the use of their dry and rough tongues. They use them to stimulate the sebaceous glands that are found at the base of their hair, and their tongues also distribute the sebum to other parts of their bodies. 

When observed, the grooming hierarchy among cats is noticeable. Usually, the older cat grooms the younger cat, and the groomer will assume a standing position while the groomer will sit or lie down. The cat blog Pawsomekitty also added that allogrooming can involve aggressive behavior among cats. Rudd van den Bos stated in his paper titled “The Function of Allogrooming in Domestic Cats; a Study in a Group of Cats living in Confinement” that cats often use the habit of allogrooming to release their confined aggression and tension.

When observed, the grooming hierarchy among cats is noticeable. Usually, the older cat grooms the younger cat, and the groomer will assume a standing position while the groomer will sit or lie down / Photo by: Telekhovskyi via Shutterstock

 

When cats lick humans

Cats can act quite quirky around humans, sometimes only because humans fail to understand why they behave the way they do. Their owners sometimes have a hard time figuring out how they really feel because their behaviors are hard to decipher. However, it is generally agreed upon that cats are known to be obsessed with licking one another. 

Aside from the many reasons why cats lick each other and their humans, they can show their affection by licking someone they like. It is their own version of hugs, so be proud if your kitty cat starts to lick you, since this gesture is a sign that they are comfortable and safe in your presence and he accepts you as part of the family.

Furthermore, cats also lick their property. Aside from urinating on it to mark their territory, they will lick or rub their head on the object or person that they want to own. As explained by My Pet Needs That, a website that provides articles about pets, it is their affectionate way of taking ownership of things. They also use the gesture to make their humans know that they are important to them. When another cat smells that you reek of another cat’s scent, they will shy away from you since they know and assume that you already have a cat.

Cats have rough and dry tongues that can feel like barbed wire on your skin every time they lick you. However painful or strange it might feel, you have to think of it as affection. They might also be licking you because they feel stressed. If you absolutely can't take the sensation of being licked by your loving cat, try distracting your fur baby with treats or playtime. This will still give your cat the affection they so desire.

Cats can act quite quirky around humans, sometimes only because humans fail to understand why they behave the way they do / Photo by: Ingus Kruklitis via Shutterstock