You have just noticed that one of your cats has developed the habit of biting your other pet’s ears. Should you worry that this might escalate into aggression? If you see your pets nibbling or licking each other’s ears, it simply means that they are communicating with one another to reinforce their bonds.
Why cats bite each other’s ears
Biting or licking each others ears is a part of social grooming or allogrooming. Although popular culture often portrays felines as solitary creatures, cats can and do form bonds. Even feral cats form groups.
Like humans, cats communicate in a variety of ways, including vocalization, body language, and scents.
Social grooming is not just about keeping each member clean. Allogrooming in cats, as well as other species like monkeys, is a way to reinforce bonds and establish social rank.
Why cats groom one another
According to feline behaviorists, allogrooming serves other crucial purposes. For one, this type of grooming enables cats to release pent-up aggression. Second, it establishes the dominance of some cats over others.
The key distinction between allogrooming and other ways to release pent-up aggression and establish social hierarchy is that allogrooming does not involve physical violence or aggression.
Allogrooming can only happen in cats that already have a bond. If you already live with a cat and bring a new one home, the two will initially be wary of one another and maintain some distance until they become familiar with one another. Once the two cats become familiar with each other and the resident cat accepts the new pet, they will engage in social grooming.
Allogrooming is also a way to establish social ranking, not just in cats, but as well as other social animals. In cats, it is usually the submissive cat who submits himself to the dominant cat for grooming. Most of the time, it is the dominant cat who does most of the grooming.
Allogrooming can occur even in cats that are not related. Even cats from different litters or even different families can form bonds and participate in social grooming.
Typically, cats groom the head and neck of other cats. Some experts suggest that this might be the reason why cats derive pleasure when you pet them in these areas. However, it is not unusual for cats to groom other areas, like the ears.
Why do cats fight after grooming?
Cats do not usually fight after grooming. To people, some cats seem to fight after grooming. But that is not exactly what is going on.
Cats rarely fight after grooming. It may look like they are fighting each other but a real fight looks different. However, there are rare instances when grooming can suddenly turn into a real fight.
As mentioned earlier, allogrooming can be a way for cats to release pent-up aggression. In some instances, that pent-up aggression remains even after grooming. In this scenario, it is the dominant cat or groomer that initiates the fight.
There are a few reasons why a grooming session can turn into a real fight. For one, some cats tend to get impatient with the submissive cats. Other cats can become annoyed with a wrong action done to them.
How to distinguish between playing and fighting in cats
Grooming is one of the ways cats play with one another. But sometimes, grooming sessions can escalate into real fights. As a responsible pet owner, you should learn to distinguish between play and real fights.
The key to distinguishing between the two is looking at how the two cats communicate with one another. Specifically, you should look at your pets’ vocalization and body language.
Although cats can sometimes play rough, you do not have to worry about aggression if both cats exhibit the following signs.
- Claws remain sheathed.
- Ears are in their normal position.
- The hairs on the back are not raised.
- No hissing or growling.
- The bites do not hurt.
Aside from these signs, you will notice that your cats do not try to show dominance over one another. If they are wrestling with each other, they will take turns with who is in the top position. If they are running and chasing one another, they will take turns between being the chaser.
Dealing with dominance in cats
Cats that have bonded successfully may sometimes exhibit rough play including chasing and ear biting. These, however, do not necessarily mean that one of the cats is being dominant over the other.
When cats are properly taught and socialized, they can engage in rough play without escalating into a real fight. Problems often arise when there is a dominant cat in your home.
Sometimes, dominance appears while a cat is still young. But more often than not, dominance usually appears when a cat is two years old or older. At around this age, a cat will test his position in the cat hierarchy.
This dominance can exhibit itself in a variety of ways, not necessarily through physical means. Among the most common signs that a cat is trying to establish dominance are spraying, claiming spots in your home, and hoarding toys. Some cats may also exhibit signs of aggression like hissing and growling.
If you want to prevent your cats from being dominant to each other, there are a few ways to curtail this. For starters, make aggressive play a no-no. As much as possible, do not encourage your cat to bite or grab you, even if he is trying to be playful.
In a multiple cat home, be sure to give each pet ample attention to prevent one of your cats from feeling jealous. Ideally, you should have multiple feeding stations in your home to prevent aggression related to food.
Ear biting in cats is not aggression
When cats bite one another, it does not always mean that they are trying to harm each other. Sometimes, biting can be a form of grooming or playing.
When a cat has been socialized and trained properly, his bites will not carry much force or hurt his feline family.
However, it is always a good idea to monitor your pets’ interaction with one another to prevent these from turning into fights. If you notice aggression between your pets, step in before things spiral out of control.
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