Cat Grooming

Cat Grooming

A mother cat washes her kittens just after they have been born while they start to suckle. But she is actually doing much more than just supplying them with their first food: she is also communicating with them in as intimate a way as possible, using her whole body to establish a bond between them. Similarly, mutual grooming can be a means of communication between two cats that are friendly towards one another and can serve to reinforce a bond.

Licking acts as a very special form of communication between cats. Although it starts with the maternal attention that a queen gives to her newborn kittens, older cats are often seen grooming each other.

Cat Grooming

Q. My cat often licks me. Is this common?

Yes, many cats that form a strong attachment to their owners will lick them from time to time, much as they will lick another cat. Grooming and suckling often go together in the case of a queen building up a relationship with her new litter of kittens.

Q. Why does a cat smell so clean and fresh after cleaning itself? It’s only used its saliva, which is hardly very clean.

Some researchers believe that the cat secretes a special type of detergent-like cleaning fluid for the sole purpose of washing itself – from glands other than those that produce saliva. This would explain this smell.

Q. How did cats deal with meat and bones that they had hunted and killed in the days before they were domesticated?

The cat used the hooks on its rough tongue to scrape the meat from the bones.

When a queen cat settles down with her kittens and starts to clean them as they suckle it’s a touching scene of enormous satisfaction and contentment. But the mother cat is actually doing more than simply feeding them: she is reassuring them after their traumatic experience, she is welcoming them into the world, and she is making them feel loved.


Similarly, mutual grooming can be a means of communication between two cats that are friendly towards one another and relaxed in each other’s company, and can serve to reinforce the close bond that exists between them. If you want to know if two cats are fond of each other, watch them together to see if they do this.

Mutual grooming can be observed especially between siblings, which often have a particularly close bond, but it can also be seen in other unrelated cats, particularly if they have been raised together from an early age. Mutual grooming is an important social activity among cats and is a sign that they feel perfectly content and at ease with one another.

The top of a cat’s tongue is covered in tiny, backwards-pointing hooks, which behave like a natural comb. Most of the time, a cat grooms itself with a dry tongue – combing rather than washing.

If the point of mutual grooming was cleanliness, it would be confined to the head and neck, which are difficult areas for the solo cat to deal with Yet the flanks are a favourite area, which supports the view that it’s done more out of a desire to cement relationships.