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Why do cats lick each other and then fight?

Cats are enigmatic creatures, capable of exhibiting behaviors that can leave even their closest human companions scratching their heads in confusion. One moment they’re snuggled up together, purring contentedly, and the next they’re hissing, baring their teeth and clawing at each other with apparent fury. It’s a puzzling phenomenon that many cat owners have witnessed: cats licking each other before launching into a full-on brawl.

While it may seem like an innocent gesture at first glance, cat owners know all too well that this pre-fight behavior is anything but harmless. So why do cats engage in this bizarre ritual? There are several possible explanations, including instinctual behavior, social hierarchy, and grooming habits.

Some experts suggest that cats lick each other as a way to establish dominance within their social group. The dominant cat may allow the subordinate cat to lick them as a sign of submission, which reinforces the pecking order within feline societies. Licking can also be a way for cats to show affection and loyalty to one another.

But what causes these peaceful moments of licking to suddenly escalate into aggression? The reasons can vary from territoriality to simply being fed up with another cat’s presence. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common explanations for this fascinating feline behavior and give you insights into what’s really going on when cats lick each other and then fight.

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Understanding Cat Grooming Behavior

What might be surprising to some is that cats also groom each other, which is known as allogrooming. This behavior is quite common among cats that live together in the same household or colony.

Allogrooming serves several purposes in cat social behavior, and one of the primary reasons for cats grooming each other is to strengthen their social bonds. It is an essential way for cats to establish trust and affection with one another and helps to create a sense of community within their group.

Another reason why cats groom each other is to maintain hygiene. Cats are social animals sharing living spaces and resources such as food and water bowls. Grooming each other helps to remove dirt and debris from their fur, reducing the risk of infection or infestation.

However, it is important to note that allogrooming can sometimes lead to aggression and fighting between cats. This can happen when one cat becomes overstimulated or annoyed by the grooming behavior of another cat. Cats have sensitive skin and may not appreciate being groomed for an extended period.

As a responsible pet owner, it is crucial to understand your cat’s grooming behavior and intervene if necessary to prevent fights from breaking out. Providing each cat with their own resources such as food and water bowls, litter boxes, and sleeping areas can reduce stress and minimize conflicts between cats.

Establishing Dominance Through Grooming

It’s not just to maintain hygiene, but also to establish dominance in their social hierarchy. Cats are social animals and use grooming as a means of communication to exchange information about their emotions, health, and status in the group.

Grooming is a complex behavior that involves a lot of sensory input. When cats groom each other, they are not only cleaning their fur but also exchanging pheromones that convey valuable information. These pheromones can indicate whether the groomer is feeling calm or stressed, healthy or sick.

Licking is a way for cats to show affection and bond with each other. However, it can also turn into fighting when one cat feels threatened or challenged by the other’s behavior. The groomer may be trying to establish dominance over the other cat, and the recipient of the grooming may feel uncomfortable with this display of dominance.

As a responsible cat owner, it’s important to monitor your cats’ interactions and intervene if necessary. By understanding why cats engage in this behavior, you can help ensure that your cats live happy and healthy lives together.

Here are some sub-topics that can help you understand more about how cats establish dominance through grooming:

  • Communication through pheromones: Pheromones play an important role in cat communication. They convey information about the cat’s mood, health, and status.
  • Play behavior: Kittens often engage in play behavior that involves grooming, which can escalate into roughhousing or fighting.
  • Grooming as a display of dominance: Sometimes, grooming can be used as a way for one cat to establish dominance over another.
  • The importance of monitoring interactions: As a cat owner, it’s essential to monitor your cats’ interactions and intervene if necessary to ensure they live happily together.

Communication and Affection Through Grooming

It’s an essential social tool that cats use to communicate and show affection towards each other.

Grooming is a sign of trust and companionship among cats. It helps them establish and maintain social bonds within their group by distributing scents and oils across their fur. This allows them to signal their identity and group affiliation to other cats, helping them recognize members of their social group and avoid conflicts with outsiders.

However, grooming isn’t just about physical cleanliness and establishing social bonds. It’s also a way for cats to exchange information about their moods and emotional states. Grooming releases endorphins in both the groomer and the recipient, which can help reduce stress and anxiety in cats. Additionally, grooming helps regulate body temperature and provides comfort and reassurance to cats.

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Grooming is particularly important for cats that live in groups. It serves as an important social tool that helps them establish, maintain, and reinforce social bonds with other cats. Without this behavior, cats may become isolated or excluded from their social group.

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But while grooming is generally a positive behavior among cats, it can escalate into fighting if one cat becomes overstimulated or annoyed by the other’s grooming behavior. As a responsible cat owner, it’s crucial to monitor your cats’ interactions to prevent any aggressive behavior.

Potential Misunderstandings During Grooming

Grooming can also lead to misunderstandings and fights between cats. As an expert in this field, I would like to share some insights on potential misunderstandings during grooming and how to prevent them.

Firstly, cats have different grooming styles, which can lead to discomfort or annoyance for the other cat. This can quickly escalate into a fight if one cat feels overwhelmed or irritated by the other’s grooming style. To avoid this, it’s crucial to monitor your cats’ behavior during grooming sessions and intervene if necessary. You can also provide separate grooming areas or toys to reduce tension between cats.

Secondly, cats may not understand each other’s body language during grooming. For instance, a cat may signal that they are done with grooming by turning away or flattening their ears, but the other cat may continue to lick them. This can lead to frustration and irritation, which can then escalate into a fight. To avoid this, it’s important to pay attention to your cats’ body language and intervene if one cat seems uncomfortable or annoyed.

Thirdly, cats have their own moods and preferences. Forcing them into an activity they’re not interested in can lead to defensive responses and fighting. If one cat tries to groom another who is not receptive, it’s best to redirect their attention with toys or treats instead.

To prevent potential misunderstandings during grooming, it’s essential to provide plenty of individual attention and playtime for each cat. This helps strengthen their bond and reduces the likelihood of fights during grooming sessions. Moreover, you can use positive reinforcement techniques such as treats and praise to encourage good behavior during grooming.

Differences in Individual Cats’ Licking Habits

To prevent these cat-astrophes, it’s crucial to comprehend the differences in individual cats’ licking habits.

Cats, like humans, have unique grooming preferences and habits. Some are fastidious groomers who spend a great deal of time grooming themselves, while others are more relaxed and may not groom as often or thoroughly. These individual differences are also evident in their licking habits towards each other.

Some cats are more inclined to groom their feline companions than others, and this can be influenced by factors such as their relationship with the other cat, personality, and overall grooming habits. It’s also important to note that cats may have different motivations for licking each other. Sometimes it’s a sign of affection or bonding between two cats, while other times it’s a way for one cat to establish dominance over the other.

These differences in individual cats’ licking habits can lead to tension and eventual aggression between feline companions. For example, if one cat persistently tries to groom the other, and the second is uninterested, it could lead to tension and eventually lead to aggression.

To prevent misunderstandings, pet owners must monitor their cats’ interactions with each other and pay attention to their body language. If one cat seems uncomfortable being licked by the other, it’s best to intervene before things escalate. Providing individual attention and positive reinforcement for each cat’s unique grooming habits is crucial in preventing jealousy and competition between them.

Signs of a Potential Fight After Licking

That’s why recognizing the signs of a potential fight after cats lick each other is crucial.

Aggression is the most obvious sign that a fight may be brewing. If one cat starts hissing, growling, or arching their back, it’s time to intervene before things get out of control. Additionally, tail twitching is a warning sign that your cat may be agitated and restless.

Cats communicate a lot through their body language, so paying attention to their posture is essential. Flattened ears or tense bodies are cues that your cat may be on edge and ready to pounce. Furthermore, if one cat locks eyes with the other without blinking or breaking eye contact, it’s best to take that as an alert that things could turn ugly.

Vocalizations are another indicator of an impending fight. Loud yowling or screeching noises are clear signs that things have escalated to heated altercation levels. However, meows or low growls can also signify that tensions are running high.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to separate your cats and give them some space. Intervene with distraction techniques like toys or treats, and try to diffuse any tension before it escalates into something more serious.

Preventing Conflict Between Cats

Here are some practical tips to help you prevent conflicts between your cats and keep the peace at home.

Firstly, providing enough resources for each cat is essential. Cats are territorial animals and need their own space, food bowls, litter boxes, and toys. If these resources are limited, cats may become aggressive towards each other to protect their territory. It’s crucial to have multiple resources available for each cat in the household to prevent conflicts.

Secondly, introducing cats gradually can help reduce tension and aggression. When introducing new cats to each other, it’s recommended to keep them separated initially and slowly introduce them by allowing them to sniff each other through a closed door or baby gate. Rewarding positive behavior with treats or praise can also encourage good behavior and reduce the risk of conflicts.

Regular playtime and exercise are also essential for cats. Cats need stimulation and exercise to release their energy and prevent boredom. Playtime can also be an opportunity for cats to bond with each other and reduce tension. So make sure you provide opportunities for your cats to play together regularly.

If conflicts persist between your cats despite your efforts, seeking professional help is essential. A veterinarian or animal behaviorist can evaluate the situation and provide guidance on how to manage the conflicts effectively.


In conclusion, the enigmatic behavior of cats can often leave us scratching our heads, especially when it comes to their pre-fight grooming sessions. Although it may appear innocent at first glance, these interactions can quickly escalate into a full-blown fight.

Experts suggest that licking is a vital part of feline communication and social hierarchy. Cats lick each other as a way to establish dominance within their group or show affection and loyalty. However, misunderstandings during grooming can sometimes lead to aggression and conflict.

As pet owners, it’s crucial to monitor our cats’ interactions and intervene if necessary. Understanding the importance of grooming in cat communication can help prevent conflicts between feline companions. Grooming helps cats establish trust and affection with each other while maintaining hygiene and exchanging valuable information about their emotions, health, and status in the group.

It’s essential to recognize potential signs of aggression after licking, such as body language cues or vocalizations. Seeking professional help if conflicts persist is also crucial in ensuring our furry friends live happy and healthy lives together.

By providing enough resources for each cat, introducing them gradually, engaging them in regular playtime and exercise, we can prevent conflicts between our feline friends.