This is going to be a fun article about my cats, past and present, who enjoy the fine art of grooming each other (and dogs).
I’m fortunate enough to live in a cat household where watching the cats groom each other is often more entertaining than what’s playing on the “telly.” Not only do I get to watch my cats show their love for one another, I get a ring-side seat, because the majority of the time the cats are lounging on the sofa with me.
I first began viewing the grooming habits of cats around the middle of 2011 when we were most involved in active rescue. I’m including photos from many years back of my former cats grooming each other. Yes, I chased my cats with a camera, even back then. But it wasn’t as a spectator of licking action and more of photographing them whenever I caught a cute pose.
First let me say that Mandy is our main cat licker, followed in a close second and third by Furby and Gizzy. Mandy enjoys a “tease the prey” approach when she wants to groom one of the other cats. She’ll lay on her side, where she can securely wrap both of her front paws around whoever she intends to bathe. Mandy really loves grooming kittens, and none of the kittens we had when we were fostering ever had forced to self-bathe. Mandy tended to Sealy, giving him extra care as he was recovering from his car fan blade injury. We had to monitor her during the healing period to be sure she didn’t lick the injury, which wouldn’t have been beneficial to either cat.
I can imagine how special a cat feels emotionally when being groomed by another cat. It probably brings back memories of kitten-hood when the mother cat had this responsibility. A tended cat or kitten at our house usually becomes submissive almost immediately and seems to enjoy what’s happening
Our cats who lick other cats fall into two categories: the head licker and the all-over-the-body-oohhh-that-feels-good licker. Our Maine Coon mix Sheela will only groom the head and ears. Jasper, also a Maine Coon mix, shares that preference as well. Mandy is a sister to Jasper, and she’s definitely an all over licker. She doesn’t discriminate and will lick any cat who decides to nap beside her on the couch. There’s only one problem in that Mandy will also clean up our cat-dog Cujo. She’s kept him bathed since he was a pup, and does it on a daily basis. Now Cujo, being a dog, gets a little doggy odor, which is remedied with a weekly bath. I don’t even want to think about how yucky (for lack of a better word) his fur must taste, especially on day six.
Furby enjoys grooming kittens. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him groom another adult cat, except maybe for his adopted mother Lola. Lola cared for Furby when he first came to us, and did all of his grooming until he was healthy enough to do it on his own. Furby always had a “sneak attack” approach in obtaining a kitten to groom. That’s why I was fortunate enough to catch it on video. Furby will lay on the couch and start a complete bathing session on himself. He’ll lick from neck to tail over and over. Usually a fascinated kitten (they were ALL fascinated by Furby) would jump up next to him. Furby then applies a variation of the technique used by Mandy in that he does a one-paw hold down maneuver.
Gizzy, our most traumatic rescue, has been our biggest surprise as a cat groomer. She was a senior cat turned into the Greenville shelter by a couple who was divorcing. I always felt Gizzy had suffered a lot of emotional damage, and in the beginning she hated EVERYBODY! She was our most talented kitty who could hiss, growl and slap simultaneously. Over time she has bonded well with all of our other cats. She has also become Lola’s private licker, considering they were once rivals. This almost always takes place on the floor in passing, and is an unprompted event. Unlike the others, Gizzy gets the job done in a hurry and then goes on with her cat day.
I find it strange that some of the cats are the nurturer’s and others are those needing nurturing. Perhaps they have some kind of cat sixth sense as to who needs comforted on a physical or emotional level, and are drawn to each other. Plus kittens are just so darn cute even I want to lick them!
The question I ask myself most often is “what does the licking cat get out of the activity?” Can the readers here help me out by leaving a comment?