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Cat Licking Kitten Aggressively? (This Is Why…)

If your cat is licking your kitten aggressively you may be wondering why or if this could be a cause of concern.

Why is my cat licking my kitten aggressively?

Your cat is likely to be licking your kitten to show dominance. It may seem aggressive but it is its way to show who is in charge and to take on a mothering role. It’s not likely meant aggressively.

So, now you know why. But, are there any other reasons why this may happen? Are all resident cats OK with kittens? Is it a good sign if your cat is licking your kitten? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Why do cats lick themselves?

Cat licking kitten aggressively.

Cats licking each other.

Cats often lick themselves to groom their fur. But, this is not the only reason for this behavior. It can also be used to control their body temperature, avoid hairballs, get rid of pesky parasites, etc.

This behavior is passed onto them from their mother as a kitten and forms a big part of their daily life as adults. Hence the reason you see cats do it so much all the time.

Other reasons why your cat is licking your kitten:

As discussed earlier your cat is likely to be expressing its dominance over your kitten. But, it is not the only reason why this could be happening. Let me explain some other possible reasons for this:

01. Cleaning

Cleaning a surface with rubber gloves and spray cleaner.

Cleaning a surface with rubber gloves and spray cleaner.

One of the most obvious reasons is to groom their fur and keep it clean. As kittens, they need some help before they start doing it themselves. Therefore, your cat may help with this.

There are other things they do to their fur while they lick and clean it, such as removing small pieces of fluff or dead fur to keep it looking tidy.

All of these skills will be passed on from the kitten’s mother, initially. But then, your cat may take over until it’s old enough to do it independently.

02. Transferring scent

New kittens have a foreign smell to resident cats. So, if they are happy to accept them they will want to apply their scent to them. This will make them familiar and easy for them to bond.

For humans, we will speak to people to get to know them. But, cats do not have this luxury, so licking and using their scent is the next best thing.

03. Showing love

Another reason this happens is to simply show some love. Cats will show their love and acceptance in many different ways, and this is one of them. If you see this happening regard it as a good sign.

04. Bonding

Bonding is a very good sign and grooming is one of the ways that cats will ‘fast track’ the bonding process.

While the kitten might not even seem to like it (some complaining quite vocally and trying to run away from the adult), in time they will learn to accept it, and as they get used to it, they’ll even return the favor.

As long as no fur is being gripped and pulled out, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Grooming is a completely natural bonding behavior and a sign that the cat and kitten are going to get along like gangbusters!

05. Showing acceptance

Grooming, with cats, also confers a certain public level of social acceptance. If there are other cats in the house, they will see that the adult has taken the kitten ‘under their wing’ and likely start treating the kitten a bit differently and in a much more positive manner.

Cats love keeping clean and will not groom each other if there is not a very high level of trust and acceptance, so this behavior is one of the best signs that the cat and kitten are getting along and that you needn’t supervise their visits so much.

At this point, they won’t hurt each other but simply keep each other squeaky clean.

Will kittens learn to lick themselves?

Kittens will learn to lick and groom themselves with time. It is normally expected by the time they are weaned. They learn this skill by watching their mother and continue with it as an adult cats.

I remember watching my mother cooking when I was young. She made so many delicious dishes I was intrigued by how she put them all together. From watching her, sometimes subliminally, I picked up a lot of techniques to cook for my family to this day.

This is the same concept as your kitten learning to groom itself. With time it will learn from its mother.

Will my cat run away if I get a kitten?

There is a chance that your cat could run away because of the addition of a new kitten. This is why it is important to make your cat still feel wanted and avoid neglecting it in favor of your new kitten.

Cats are very territorial and if they feel that their territory is being invaded they can get aggressive with the kitten or want to disappear.

Is licking a sign of dominance in cats?

Licking is a known sign of dominance for cats. However, it is not limited to just aggressive licking. It can also be biting the kitten, standing on top of it, etc.

If you see this happen it usually results in two things one cat becoming submissive and accepting the dominance. Or the other one putting up resistance and causing more aggressive displays.

Are older cats OK with kittens?

Some older resident cats are OK with new kittens immediately. However, some need some time to fully adjust to it. There are also some cats that never really accept the kitten (Could a mother cat hurt it? Click here) and keep their distance.

The latter is fine as long as there is no aggressive conflict. The main thing is making sure that they can live together without either of them getting hurt.

Regarding the cats that just need time. Be patient and with some time they will adjust.

Why might some cats lick excessively?

Excessive licking is not necessarily a bad thing. It can just be the way some cats calm themselves. It is, for some cats, a type of habit that forms after doing it routinely for a long time.

I have a habit of clicking my finger joints, I know, it’s not great. I have no idea why I do it but I feel the urge to do it several times a day. This is no different from a cat that excessively licks.

The cat just enjoys doing it. And, when you couple this excessively licking cat with a new kitten it will most likely want to lick it vigorously as well.

Is your resident cat licking your kitten a good sign?

If you have noticed your resident cat licking your kitten consider it a good sign. As long as there is no growling or signs of blood then this sounds like it is being done lovingly.

Some cat owners argue that they may not know if the cat is being too rough. But, if a cat means harm there are some obvious signs that you will not be able to ignore. For example, growling sounds, biting, showing drops of blood, etc.

Do adult cats aggressively lick each other too?

Adult cats do aggressively lick each other as well. It is a message to the other cat that they are in charge. This stems from the behavior of their mother, who is regarded at the top of their hierarchy.

She used to lick them as kittens and regard this behavior as acceptable to the one in charge. The problem occurs when the other cat is resisting this behavior and wants to claim the role of the boss instead.

Is it bad if a cat stops licking itself?

If you notice that your cat has stopped grooming itself it is a bad sign. They tend to groom regularly to maintain their fur and stay clean. If this stops happening it could be a sign of a health issue.

For example, if a cat has problems with arthritis it may find it painful to make the simplest of moves. And, this could result in it stopping grooming or not doing enough to maintain its fur.

What is mutual grooming?

Mutual grooming is when two cats lick and groom each other (Is your kitten doing this? Click here). This is not regarded as aggressive or a play or dominance. It is seen as a way of showing love and companionship.

If you have two or more cats that live well together there is a good chance that you have seen this happen before and will be no surprise to you.

When does licking become excessive for cats?

A white and black cat lying down while licking its paws.

A white and black cat lying down while licking its paws.

Excessing licking, as expressed by one cat overgrooming themselves, is often the result of extreme stress. However, changes in your environment such as a new work schedule or bringing a new kitten into the house can contribute to the chances of this behavior occurring.

Try to distract your cat with lots of treats and attention to see if this helps unless it has gotten to the point where your cat is pulling out their fur. If this occurs, then you’ll want to get the vet involved to advise you on the best next steps for your cat.

How can you see early signs of overgrooming?

You’ll have to keep a close eye on your cat if you suspect that they are overgrooming. Try to distract them a bit with treats and lots of love and attention, and with a little luck, this will defuse the problem before it can become worse.

Cats can and do overgroom as a stress response, but usually, unless they are pulling out fur, you won’t need to get the vet involved.

Try to determine what has your cat upset, such as a recent schedule change, a new animal in the house – anything that has recently changed – and you can strategize from there as to the best next steps.

Will a cat lick itself if it feels pain or discomfort?

Yes, cats will sometimes groom themselves repeatedly due to conditions such as itchy or scratched skin, and there are even neurological conditions that can show this behavior as a symptom.

If nothing has changed in the house recently, it’s best to rule out a health issue with a quick visit to your vet if your cat is suddenly grooming a lot (especially when ‘mowing’ their fur, which is repeated chewing in a certain area).

Your vet can quickly rule out any cuts, rashes, or parasitic infections or get them treated if they are found.

Is allogrooming always reciprocated?

The term ‘allogrooming’ refers to grooming behaviors that are seen to occur within a particular species, such as rhesus monkeys, chimpanzees, and yes, your cat! Allogrooming is generally going to be reciprocated, as a certain level of trust must exist between both cats for the grooming to occur at all.

While kittens may look uncomfortable when an adult pins them for a grooming session, this is actually quite normal, as it is still a bit new for them, but in time they will groom the adult in return and they’ll subsequently groom each other all of the time after that.

Grooming is just one of those natural behaviors cats exhibit, for keeping clean and maintaining proper feline socialization in the household.

Lindsey Browlingdon