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Kitten Grooming Older Cat? (3 Reasons Why This Happens)

If your kitten is grooming your older cat you may be wondering why it’s happening and if this is regarded as normal.

Why is my kitten grooming my older cat?

A kitten may groom an older kitten for several reasons such as testing their dominance, as a simple show of affection, or as a way to bond with the older cat. You have to look at the signs and body language to confirm which one it is.

So, now you know why. But, does this behavior happen for indoor and outdoor cats? What is allogrooming, and how is it related to this behavior? Keep reading for these answers, and so much more…

3 Reasons Why your kitten is grooming an older cat:

Kitten grooming older cat.

A kitten licking its mouth.

As discussed earlier there are several reasons why kittens may groom an older cat. Therefore, in this section, I will explain each one in more detail:

01. Playing with dominance

Kittens like to play fight and also test their dominance with an older cat. Unfortunately, this may annoy the older cat at times. But, this is part of their learning process.

You may even see this licking turn into a bite. The important thing is to make sure it is playful and not a real fight because cats, especially male cats, can hurt kittens.

02. Bonding and acceptance

If you see your kitten licking and grooming an older cat it is a good sign. This is because it shows that they are bonding and that the kitten has accepted the cat as a trusted part of your family.

If, on the other hand, you see your cat hissing or acting aggressively towards the kitten you may have a problem.

03. A Gesture of affection

Similar to bonding, discussed earlier, a kitten may do this as a gesture of affection. Just to show that it cares. But, it also serves as a practical way to help the cat it now cares for.

Meaning, that some areas of a cat’s body are difficult to get to and the kitten may be offering a helping hand.

What is Allogroom?

Allogroom is a term used when animals of the same species groom each other, according to Wikipedia. This is relevant, in this context, because your kitten who is licking your older cat would be classed as allogrooming.

This is the official term for what you have witnessed basically. You may hear other people refer to it in this way going forward.

Is grooming a sign of dominance in cats?

Although grooming is not a direct play for dominance it does follow a level of the hierarchy. This means, that a more dominant cat is likely to be leading the grooming effort.

This is why it can seem odd to see a kitten leading the grooming in this manner. This is why it can be seen as a test of dominance towards the older cat.

I remember being told by my mother to “get in the car”! as a young 14-year-old. I refused and left my mother in shock. I was worried because I was sure the consequences of my actions would be severe.

I continued my disobedience and ran around the car. My mother was embarrassed and retreated to her car. I went home, found my way to school, then waited for the consequences later…

My point is this, I was like that kitten testing my mother’s dominance similarly.

Can a male cat groom a kitten?

Male cats can groom kittens. This may happen in the absence of their mother and if they have bonded with the cat well. If a resident cat accepts a new kitten (Click here if it doesn’t and looks stressed) in your home it may take over this role to teach the kitten these basic tasks.

It can go the opposite way, with the male cat pulling the kitten around or acting aggressively.

Is cat grooming linked to their social hierarchy?

There has been a study,  conducted by Van Den Bos. R, that focused on the behavior of cat grooming. In summary, it showed some observations of cats grooming according to hierarchy.

As stated earlier, if you have witnessed your kitten grooming your older cat it is probably the kitten trying its luck with the cat.

Does this grooming suggest that the kitten has bonded?

If your kitten is grooming your cat, regardless of the reasons, it is a good sign and suggests that they have bonded. If they did not there would be a noticeable difference. Such as growling or hissing at each other.

If you have ever wondered if you should be worried about this weird behavior do not be. It is a good sign they are getting along.

Could a kitten groom another animal?

A kitten, or a cat, could groom another animal. There have been many stories, from cat owners, of their cats grooming their family dog. Or, other family animals.

This behavior sounds odd at first. But, cats can be quite loving once they trust. And, this is regardless of the species they care for. This is why you may notice that your kitten may lick your face, same concept.

Do indoor and outdoor cats groom each other?

Indoor and outdoor cats are known to groom each other. However, it is more likely to see indoor cats ding this. This could be because they spend more hours together, or another unknown reason.

Also, regardless of whether the cat is spayed, or neutered, this grooming each other, or allogrooming behavior is still witnessed.

What area of your cat’s body is your kitten likely to groom?

Most cats, who are allogrooming, tend to direct this towards their head or neck area. This may seem to make logical sense because this is the natural way a cat is stroked by its owner.

Also, when you gesture towards your cat or kitten, they typically offer their head, right? This just adds to the confirmation that these areas are preferred, for some reason.

How often do cats groom themselves?

Cats are expected to groom themselves quite regularly. In particular, anywhere from 30-50 percent of each day. This is because they like to keep themselves clean and their fur in order.

Grooming another kitten, or cat is not expected to be the same rate. But, grooming, in general, is quite a big part of their day.

Why is grooming important for kittens?

Grooming is important for kittens for several reasons. Such as keeping them clean, removing after-birth from their fur, and triggering them to eliminate waste as young kittens.

Most of these tasks are done by its mother in the early weeks and months of its life. After a while, it learns how important this is and the bond it creates for them.

I remember my mother cooking some amazing meals for me and my brother as a young child, looking back I understand how this rubbed off on me and how it made me pass on this show of love to my family and guests.

I mention this because this show of love, wrapped in cooking, for us humans, is similar to how a kitten’s mother used simple cat grooming to show the kitten its love and practical skill to use in their life going forward.

Why do some cats groom and then fight after?

Social grooming occurs before fighting when two cats are comfortable with each other. Social grooming is called allogrooming. Allogrooming happens when two or more cats clean each other.

If cats have bonded and are on good social terms, they may allogroom each other before fighting. Grooming before fighting signifies the cats have become closely bonded. Cats that groom each other are on good social terms. They may be related, close in age, have paternal instincts, or form an instant bond.

Does a resident cat always reciprocate a kitten grooming it?

If the resident cat bonds closely with a kitten, they might reciprocate grooming. The kitten does not need to be their own for them to form a close bond with them. However, older cats can have difficulty accepting new cats in their household. Acceptance will determine whether the cat reciprocates grooming. If a cat does not accept the kitten into the household, it may not groom them back. An unaccepting cat might combat kittens or act aggressively toward the kitten because they do not want them to participate in allogrooming.

Cats who receive a new kitten into their household might groom kittens to establish a positive social hierarchy. Social allogrooming is especially common for female cats because of their maternal instincts. Although not every cat is born with these maternal instincts, meaning they may not immediately try allogrooming.

Do indoor and outdoor cats do allogrooming?

Cat licking itself.

Cat licking itself.

Indoor and outdoor cats will groom, no matter where they live. The primary purpose of allogrooming is to clean one’s fur. Cats will also clean their fur for many other reasons, including staying clean and for comfort. Outdoor cats require the same amount of grooming as indoor cats, if not more, because of their proximity to dirt and grime. Outdoor cats might have a more competitive social hierarchy because they are more vulnerable to their environment and nearby predators.

Will a neutered cat still perform allogrooming?

Spayed and neutered cats perform allogrooming to keep themselves clean. After being fixed, cats no longer seek the same social relationships because they do not need to reproduce. However, neutered cats still require social grooming and relationships, even when they do not want to mate with other cats. Cats desire social relationships in the household because it helps them set a hierarchy. Dominant personalities can emerge during social grooming, making establishing the order easier.

Do male & female kittens groom older cats?

Male and female kittens might try grooming older cats to establish their position in their social hierarchy. Allogrooming is the critical first step of establishing a cat’s position on the social hierarchy because it will determine where they stand in the pack.

Kittens will want to positively integrate their way into their new environment, so they try to make a good impression on older cats by assisting them in grooming. When the kittens perform allogrooming successfully, the older cat will groom the younger cat back.

Does a cat perform allogrooming more than a kitten or the other way around?

Cats and kittens both perform allogrooming equally. Allogrooming can establish a positive relationship between your cat and kitten. They will do it to each other equally as long as they have a good relationship.

At first, your cat might do allogrooming more frequently than your kitten as they teach your kitten how to groom. Kittens may partake in the behavior even after rejection because they want to take a higher position in the hierarchy. The younger cat may also misunderstand social grooming, making it difficult for them to stop allogrooming.

Lindsey Browlingdon