Why Do Cats Groom Each Other And Then Fight?

Why Do Cats Groom Each Other And Then Fight

Cats are so quirky and they have crazy antics like rolling in the dirt and sticking their tongue out when petted. But, they can be complicated, too. You may see two cat buddies grooming each other and the next thing you know, they are fighting and biting each other.  Why do they do that?

Why do cats groom each other and then fight?

These are the most probable reasons why cats groom each other and then fight: 

1. It is a sign that one of the cats is already done and she is letting the other cat know she has had enough

Allogrooming or mutual grooming is common between cats and other animals. According to Dr. Pamela Perry of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, cats spend around 50% of their day grooming themselves. This may also include grooming their fellow cats if they live in a multi-cat household. However, if one cat decides that she’s had enough of the grooming due to overstimulation she may signal with a bite which may ultimately lead to fighting.  

2. It may be due to the detection of an injury or illness

It could mean that the groomed cat suddenly got hurt. Felines usually groom the head and neck area. It could be that the grooming cat came upon a wound or infection in the groomed cat’s skin. This results in an agitated reaction that may spark a fight. 

3. It may be part of their play-grooming routine

Fighting forms part of the play-grooming routine of cats where they seem to be fighting but the claws remain sheathed. Their body hair also stays smooth and flat, not raising and spiky. There is also no hissing and growling and though there may be a show of teeth there is no real intention to harm each other. Needless to say, aggressive play among cats usually after grooming each other may include rolling around, kicking, chasing and pawing each other. 

Reasons why cats groom each other

These are the common reasons why cats groom each other:

1. It is a form of bonding among cats

Social grooming among cats signifies a form of bonding and cats that often groom each other rarely engage in real fights. Grooming each other also means that a level of trust has been established. You may also check our earlier article on how to tell if cats are bonded for additional information on this. 

2. They came from the same litter

If two cats are grooming each other it is most likely that they came from the same litter.  This tightens the bond within family members and signifies that they trust each other. Also, if young cats from the same litter begin to groom an older cat they likely welcome the senior cat to their family. 

3. It is a display of affection

Mother cats groom their kittens to form a vital connection and to coney affection. It is also their means of marking their territory and as a sign that kittens are part of their family. Similarly, it signifies affection when cats groom each other in a multi-cat household.

4. It is a form of acceptance

If you have a new cat and your other cats begin to smell, lick and groom her it means that she is accepted and protected. It is also a clear indication that she is welcomed by the family and the family scent has been transferred on her.

Interesting facts about allogrooming

1. Indoor and outdoor cats alike practice allogrooming

Both indoor and outdoor cats perform allogrooming to their fellow cats at the same rate or frequency.  However, indoor cats tend to do it more because they are in closer proximity to fellow cats in the household. 

2. Cats allogroom regardless if they are spayed and neutered or not.

Being fixed or not does not have any considerable effect since cats will allogroom although they may be spayed and neutered or not at all. 

3. All cats allogroom regardless of gender and gender combination

Cats allogroom regardless of gender although cat experts note that male cats tend to groom other cats more compared to female cats. The grooming buddies could be both male cats, male and female cats or both female cats. 

4. Between two cats grooming each other, there will always be one cat that will do the majority of the grooming

It was widely observed that when two cats groom each other there will always be one cat that will do most of the licking and cleaning. 

5. Dominant cats are more likely to be the groomers and less confident ones more likely to be the groomed ones

Cat experts further note that dominant and confident cats are more likely to be on the giving end or the so-called groomers while the less confident and less dominant cats are more likely to be on the receiving end or the so-called groomed ones. 

6. Cats receive more grooming from their aggressors 

Allogrooming denotes dominance, thus, it is often observed that cats that are usually victims of aggressive cats will receive more grooming from their aggressors. This may be confusing and surprising at the same time but Ruud van den Bos, a lecturer and researcher of Radboud University in the Netherlands, states that allogrooming among domestic cats is most likely a way to redirect pent-up aggression. He also notes that it reaffirms dominance in a way that is acceptable for the cats rather than through violent and aggressive behavior. 

7. There is less allogrooming when cats in a multi-cat household are more prone to aggressive behavior

In multi-cat households where aggression tends to occur, there seem to be lesser instances of allogrooming. 


Cats are quirky, playful and complicated all at the same time. They lick and clean each other and you can observe the affection and bonding between them yet the next moment they resort to biting and fighting. This love-hate behavior may just be part of their play-fighting routine. However, it may also be due to the detection of a wound or illness that is why the grooming will end up in biting and fighting. If you notice that the fighting becomes frequent and aggressive, consult your vet at once as it may signify an urgent concern. 

Image: istockphoto.com / karamysh