Why Do Cats Lick Each Other when They Greet?

by Melodie Anne Coffman, Demand Media Google
    Cats who are familiar with each other often lick one another.

    Cats who are familiar with each other often lick one another.

    It's enjoyable to watch two cats greet each other. They purr loudly, butt heads and lick each other -- sometimes even when they first meet. Kitties lick each other for a variety of reasons, and if a cat considers you part of her family, she'll lick you, too.

    To Clean

    Felines are naturally clean critters. They like everything to be neat and in order -- including their feline friends. One reason cats lick each other upon greeting is to clean each other. Maybe Felix just finished feasting on his evening entree. Max might come up and lick Felix's face to remove any leftover scraps. Felix gets a bath, while Max gets to enjoy the tiny last morsel of food. Some kitties give full-body baths, while others may simply lick the other feline in the face.

    Marking Territory

    One reason mama kitty licks her young is to put her scent on them. Each time they return to her after a play session, she'll re-coat them with her scent as a way of claiming her litter, explains the Animal Planet website. Kitties do the same thing as adults, licking each other to spread their scents and mark their territories. This way, cats in the same home all smell the same. If a feline who has a different scent comes around, the scent alerts the rest of the group that a stranger is among them.

    Being Social

    Cats are social creatures. When they meet, they'll rub noses or sniff each other's rear end. As they start to bond and get to know each other better, they'll become more and more affectionate. You might see your purring pals paw at each other's face and licking one another. This type of behavior is similar to kissing among humans. Since cats can't hug and kiss, they'll bump into each other and lick.

    Licking You

    Your furry pal might even lick you every time he greets you. Whether he licks your feet or jumps up on the arm of the sofa and licks your hand, he's treating you like a member of his feline family. Your cuddly companion licks you to clean you and cover you with his scent. He's making you smell like him, so that when other kitties come around, they'll know you already "belong" to a feline.

    Special Considerations

    Some cats also nibble each other to show affection and spread their scent, but nibbling should not be aggressive. If your kitty's bites draw blood or are accompanied by growling, it might be a sign of aggression and a signal that your little buddy is upset. Separate your felines until they cool off. If your fuzzy friend is biting you, he may be telling you that he is annoyed and wants to be left alone.

    About the Author

    Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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