Despite what we may have been led to believe cats are social animals and part of that sociability is grooming each other and their humans so that it’s clear to them who is part of their family and who is an outsider.
Taking the time and making the effort to groom your cat and to be groomed by him will help you to form a much closer bond with even the most cat-like of cats (the one who seems like he’s “just passing” and hardly seems to pay you any attention.)
Showing a Close Bond
Cats that are close to each other groom each other to show affection, they may be siblings or they may simply have been together for a long time, but if they wash each other they have formed a close and trusting bond. Imagine trusting someone else to wash your head, neck and ears, very vulnerable parts of your body that are easy to damage, you need to really trust someone else to let them get this close and intimate with you.
You may find that your cat tries to groom you as well. This usually shows that they are treating you as a trusted member of their group, but it does sometimes mean that they don’t like your smell (perhaps perfume or your soap, or you may have got something on your skin), and they may be trying to get rid of it by licking you clean.
Also, licking each other transfers some of your smell to the rest of your group, so you can identify each other as the same social family when you’re looking for each other (this includes you).
Mothers Cleaning Their Kittens
Newborn kittens need to have all the blood and gore associated with birth cleaned off them. Also, it’s useful for them to smell like their mother so they can be easily identified, rescued from harm, protected and fed.
Additionally in the first few weeks of life kittens need their urinary tracts and bowels stimulated so they can pass waste products.
Related Post: Cat Food For Urinary Tract Health
Mirroring the Mothering Instinct
This isn’t just reserved for female cats, makes do it to, but they are mirroring what happened to them as young kittens when their mother would wash and care for them. Again, this serves to transfer smells between each other.
Some Bits Are Simply Tricky to Clean Yourself
The top of your cat’s head, inside their ears, their cheeks and faces, that bit at the base of the tail right in the middle of the back…If it requires licking your paws and then rubbing a patch or twisting around and trying to stay there, not fall over and lick it clean, cats are going to struggle, so if they can get a friend to wash the tricky parts the job is going to be done much more successfully. You will observe your cat pushing his head, cheeks, ears, and the base of his back into the face of his companion cats and into your hands, this is a subtle hint that he would like you to help him out with a good clean.
Giving Your Cat a Helping Hand
Grooming your cat will help with her wellbeing, but will also help you to build and maintain a healthy and loving relationship with your beloved pet. Follow our top tips to make this an enjoyable experience for both of you.
Grooming will help to stimulate the essential oils in your cats skin and fur keeping him in tip top condition.
Brushing and combing your cat, every day for long haired varieties and around twice a week for short hairs will also help cut down on the amount of fur your cat is ingesting through washing (and remember, a cat will spend up to 50% of its waking time washing itself or it’s social group, so there is the potential for ingesting a lot of hair). Hairballs are unpleasant for your cat and for you, so taking the time to groom your cat will cut down on both of you having to suffer them.
Remember not just to use a brush and comb, but to also run a close-toothed flea comb through your cat’s head, neck, ear area, chin and down his back towards his tail to get rid of any bugs that may been in his fir (keep a bowl of warm soapy water next to you as you do this to drown the little visitors). This will cut down on fleas and worms on your beloved pet.
Establish a grooming routine with your cat in a relaxed atmosphere and enjoy being part of your pet’s social group, of he’s going to take the time to groom you, you should find the time to pay him the same compliment.
It’s All About Being Part of the Family
Cats are really one of the easiest pets to have, they don’t make the demands on your time that – for example – dogs do, in fact, you may find that your cat spends most of his time doing his own thing and pleasing himself, turning up to be fed and for the odd tickle behind the ear. Putting the time aside to quietly groom your cat and play with him in a relaxed atmosphere will show him that he is a valued part of your family group and will further encourage him to groom you and make you feel that you are a valued part of his family.
- Angela Libal, What Does It Mean if the Male Cat Is Licking the Female?, The Nest