Two of my cats are best friends. They play together, cuddle together and follow one another around. They also groom one another almost every day. But I noticed that my cats were frequently grooming each other and then immediately starting to fight. At first, I thought that was just the growing pains of living together and figuring out their relationship as my younger cat grew up. When the behavior didn’t stop, though, I started to worry that there might be more concern causing the behavior. So, why do cats groom each other and then fight?
Cats groom and then fight when they have gone from one bonding activity, grooming, to another, playing. The fighting is a result of cats letting out some energy and having fun with one another. The fighting can turn aggressive and also include biting. This behavior does not usually cause concern.
There are actually many reasons why cats groom then fight. It could be territorial, or even the cats getting used to each other if they haven’t been around each other much. We’ll dive into some of the more unusual behaviors you’ll see and ways you can help prevent it.
Why Do Cats Groom Each Other And Then Bite
Cats groom each other and then bite because they are communicating with each other.
One of the first things I learned is that mutual grooming in cats is called allogrooming. Allogrooming is typical to wild and domesticated cats, occurs between cats of both genders, and is common among cats that have been fixed and cats that haven’t.
There’s something about grooming that is both very natural to cats and very soothing. Much like a bath or a good massage can feel good to us, grooming feels good to cats.
But if allogrooming feels good, why is it so common for one cat to bite the other after a grooming session?
Well, the most common reason is pretty simple. Biting is a communicative expression for cats, and it’s not always meant to be aggressive. Most of the time, when one cat bites another after a grooming session, that cat is saying, ‘I’m done now.’
It’s the same kind of behavior your cat might display if you were petting them for just a little too long. The bite is a way of letting their grooming partner know that they are slightly overstimulated and need to stop.
That’s not the only reason a cat might bite another cat while grooming, though.
Boredom is another common reason. Your cat might be trying to initiate play through biting if they’re bored or feeling cooped up. Watch your cats and see if the biting stops or if one cat seems to be egging the other on. If they’re trying to get the other cat to engage with them more, chances are your cat is bored and trying to play.
The last common reason cats bite during or after grooming is if they have different hair lengths. It’s relatively common for shorthaired cats to try and bite long-haired cat’s fur while grooming if they get overwhelmed by the length or are trying to remove a matt or a tangle.
Why Does My Cat Lick And Then Attack My Other Cat
Licking followed by a more aggressive attack might seem a little more concerning than grooming followed by biting, at least at first glance. After all, most cats will only groom other cats that they genuinely like.
But just a lick followed by pouncing on the other cat? Or batting, or even just a bite, can look very different.
This is another form of play between cats. You can think of the lick as being a greeting or a way of establishing that the next behavior is meant to be friendly and all in good fun. After all, kittens play together all the time, and even adult wild cats will occasionally play with other cats, assuming they’ve met before.
Play is just a natural part of cat behavior, and a lot of cat play uses the same muscles and instincts as fighting or hunting. That’s why cat playtime can look like a furious wrestling match to humans, especially when one or both cats are a little vocal while playing.
Why Would Two Cats Suddenly Start Fighting
There are a lot of reasons for cats to start fighting suddenly. After all, cats can be relatively solitary animals. Even when they do associate with other cats, like the feral cat pods you see in the wild, they only tend to associate with cats that they’ve known for a long time or are directly related to.
Generally, the most common reason for cats that have known each other for a while to start fighting is simply that they startled one another. Cats tend to react to surprise with aggressive body language and behavior.
Cats can also start fighting if one is pushing the other’s boundaries too far or if they are very excited by something. Sometimes introducing a new toy or treats can temporarily cause fights.
Do Cats Hurt Each Other When They Play Fight?
Cats do not hurt each other when they play fight, however aggressive play fights can lead to unwanted injuries fo your pet.
Fortunately, most play fighting passes without incident. Even if your cats are biting and using unsheathed claws while playing (which is more common for younger cats and cats that are easily excited), they are usually protected by their fur.
However, cats can injure one another during play accidentally. Eyes and ears are particularly vulnerable.
Usually, play injuries aren’t severe, but it’s still important to contact your vet if you notice that your cat is squinting or has signs of another injury after playing. Small scratches should be monitored closely to make sure they don’t become infected while healing.
Do Cats Groom Each Other as a Sign of Affection?
Yes! Grooming among cats is a sign of trust and affection. It’s something cats can do that feels good, but it also puts them in a relatively vulnerable and relaxed position among predators that translates to a good relationship and a lot of trust.
Once your cats trust each other enough to groom, you can be confident that they have a good relationship. It’s also more likely that your cats will be able to make up and go back to being friends if they ever get into a fight in the future.
Is Cat Grooming A Sign Of Dominance?
Yes, grooming is a sign of dominance. It’s also a sign of affection since two cats that don’t like each other won’t attempt to groom one other, but the kind of grooming and who gives and who receives grooming are expressions of dominance.
In allogrooming, when two or more cats are grooming one another, the more dominant cat is likely the cat that does more grooming. The cat that receives grooming is usually less dominant.
In cats where the relationship is incredibly close, like littermates, it may be hard to tell which cat is the more dominant. That may be because closer cat relationships sometimes have less of a social pecking order.
How To Stop Cats From Fighting
The most important thing is to separate the cats. If you can’t get close without risking an injury, cover your arms with oven mittens, a towel, or a thick coat and separate your cats. It’s probably best to lock them in separate rooms to give them some time to cool down.
It’s also important to check your cat for injuries after a fight. Contact your vet if you find or suspect anything more severe than a shallow scratch.
This is where it gets tricky.
After both cats have been cared for and had a couple of days to cool down, you need to start reintroducing them. Putting them in rooms next to each other to sniff and interact under the door is an excellent first step. Try putting towels, toys, and cat beds in each room and then trading them. Trading scents this way is kind of like a cat handshake, and it’s an excellent way to start getting them used to one another.
If you have a way to keep your cats separated but can see one another, that can be another good way to re-socialize them.
Calming treats, medication from your vet, or happy cat pheromone products can also help keep both cats calm and relaxed during the first few interactions after a fight.
Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire solution, and sometimes cats don’t get along. Talk to your vet for advice on managing fighting cats and cats that don’t get along together.