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Why Will Cats Groom Each Other Then Fight?

If you want a pet, you don’t have to bathe; get a cat. In fact, get two. They spend a lot of their time “cat grooming” each other, so you will seldom if ever, have to wash your furry friend.

Common Reasons Why Cats Groom Each Other

Have you ever noticed that cats engage in mutual grooming, then fight? Grooming is a form of bonding. That is why cats that enjoy grooming each other rarely engage in a real fight. If your cats groom each other, it means a lot of love and trust has developed and a sign they are comfortable in each other’s company.

You will often see them social grooming — two cats licking each other’s face and ears. The two cats see each other as family. Grooming is an exercise in trust. Scientists refer to this behavior as social grooming or allogrooming and are believed to be related to a cat’s maternal instincts. Licks to the face are a cat’s preferred way to show affection. It is typical cat behavior for cats to groom and then begin fighting.

They go from one bonding activity to another — grooming to playing.

The fighting is just a result of cats letting out pent-up aggression and having fun with one another. The fighting can turn into aggressive behavior and include biting. But this behavior is usually no cause for concern. It’s surprising to see your two friendly cats fighting. But it is not a “real fight.”

It’s very rare for two cats that dislike each other to perform social grooming before a fight. This seemingly aggressive play includes pawing, kicking, rolling around, and chasing each other. The rough and tumble activity is not actual fighting, just a sign of affection between two cats.

Social grooming is essential for two cats to get along well. There are many reasons why cats will groom, then fight.

Purpose of Grooming in Cats

It is a ritualistic exercise, but all cats spend a significant portion of their day grooming their fur, then cleaning every part of their body they can reach.

Licking is associated with grooming, but cats will dig deep to locate fleas or bite tangled fur. Watch a cat groom; it is a long and detailed task.

The act of grooming in cats is more than the basic notion of using the tongue to clean. Like so many aspects of the animal kingdom, there is often more involved from a behavioral standpoint than is apparent. Cats will groom for a variety of reasons:

  • Enjoyment and pleasure
  • Washing after activity or exercise
  • Remove debris or dirt from injuries because cats have antiseptic tongues
  • Cleaning up after mealtime
  • Temperature control
  • Relaxation, stress, and anxiety relief
  • Remove scent so that predators don’t sense them
  • Fur and skin lubrication
  • Obsessive, self-soothing behavior

Cats know when they have nothing else to do, they can always groom. Often grooming is a fixed routine that cats can rely on to keep themselves busy.

It is not strange for a cat to use grooming to totally ignore their owner. Grooming is used as “busy work” and a way to ignore the boss. Yes, cats really are that intelligent.

An intense emotional crisis can result in excessive grooming. The removal and pulling of fur can happen when a cat cannot adjust to a change in its environment. For example, the introduction of a new kitten to the family can be stressful for a senior cat.

Cats that groom each other have formed a solid bond. Although it is rare, play fighting could advance to the next level. Squealing, hissing or slapping can be unleashed at that point. At this point, the owner must step in and make peace between the two upset felines.

Because cats are naturally curious animals and like to do their own thing, the act of another cat messing with them can lead to aggravation. If it seems one cat is telling the other cat, “I’m going to lick your neck clean, then bite it,” you are probably correct.

Grooming then fighting can be the result of disease detection or an illness. If a cat stumbles upon an infection or flesh wound in a cat, they are grooming, and it could halt grooming, resulting in a more stern and “standoffish” approach.

Difference Between Play and Fighting in Cats

Play fighting involves grabbing, rolling around, kicking with their rear feet or bunny kicking, and quickly rising, then chasing one another around the house.

Generally, no sounds of anger or discomfort are displayed. It is also typical for the kicking and grabbing to stop suddenly, as both cats are entirely relaxed resting together.

The actual fighting is very different. A true altercation is more aggressive, deliberate, and nearly impossible to break up. In a true fight, cats will chase each other, tackle, and resume aggression, with screaming and squeals the vocal byproducts.

The longer you have your cats, the simpler it will be to stop the fight. Some play fighting can get too rough, but there is a stark difference between the two behaviors.

Although possible, two cats that do not like each other will seldom engage in any social grooming. If there are two cats at odds, the last thing they want is to be touched by the other cat.

Social grooming tightens the bond within the cat family. If you have young cats from the same litter and one older cat, a kitten licking a more senior cat means it has been accepted into the family.

Social grooming provides a connection between kittens and adult cats, most notably the mother cat. It is a display of affection, as well as dominance and territorial marking.

Do Cats Socially Groom Other Animals?

Do you wonder why your cat grooms your dog? The dog is part of the cat’s family. It may seem strange, but trusting cats will accept almost anyone. That is why you see shows on television about cats and ferrets being best friends or an older cat being friends with a bearded dragon.

If there is trust and a social bond has formed, cats can lick then groom other species. Two cats that will groom each other and then fight are a part of the complicated relationship that felines enjoy.

Cats Are Terrific Companions

Cats enjoy being close to where their favorite people are but less needy than their doggie counterparts. Cats are content to sit quietly near their favorite human while they read, watch television, or work. It is wonderful to have a cat meowing on your lap after a long, hard day. Cats are affectionate and loving as dogs are, but not as high maintenance.

There is always a debate between dog and cat lovers as to which is the better pet. If you have had both cats and dogs (this writer has two of each), it is clear that cats can be as loving, playful, and fun as a dog.

But cats are better pets for people who live in an apartment or spend a lot of time away from home. They are also more economical to keep and require less maintenance than their canine friends. Overall, cats are wonderful pets and can provide lots of love and affection, just like dogs!

Cats are naturally solitary animals, not designed to live in close social groups.  Cats can be friends if they have grown up together from kittens, but cats will generally just tolerate each other, with any signs of conflict being very subtle.  

Why Do Cats Really Fight?

The usual reason for conflict is over resources like food and water bowls, scratching posts, or litter trays. Allow each cat his or her own and put them in separate areas to avoid tension.

Cat playing and fighting can look remarkably similar. When your cats are just playing, they will be silent, do some gentle biting without claws, and chasing two ways. If your cats are biting seriously, with claws out, and you hear screams, they are not best friends! Chasing in one direction only is another sign.

There are more subtle signs of conflict, including staring at each other, blocking the other’s path, and hiding away.

When there are signs of tension or conflict between your cats, it will not resolve themselves with time. You need to act quickly as cats do not reconcile after a conflict. Basically, cats find it hard to forgive and forget.

So if you are considering adding another cat to your family, it is vital to get their first meeting right to set the mood for their future relationship. Watch their behavior — if you see them grooming each other, then fighting and chasing each other — you know the new cat has been welcomed into the family.