If you’re a cat owner, you’ve probably witnessed the somewhat peculiar behavior of cats licking each other’s butts. While this may seem odd or even slightly off-putting to us, it’s actually a normal and important part of feline behavior. In order to fully understand why cats engage in this activity, we need to delve into the world of feline communication, hygiene habits, and social bonding rituals.
Understanding Feline Communication
Cats communicate in various ways, including vocalization, body language, and scent marking. Licking is a vital part of this communication toolkit. Dr. Gary Weitzman, president of the San Diego Humane Society and author of “How to Speak Cat,” explains that “Cats use licking as a way to bond with their social group and mark their territory” (Weitzman, 2015).
The Role of Scent Glands
Felines have multiple scent glands located throughout their bodies, including around their anus. When cats lick each other’s butts, they are essentially ‘reading’ the scents produced by these glands. This can provide them with a wealth of information about the other cat’s health status, diet, and even emotional state.
Feline Hygiene Habits
Cleaning is an integral part of a cat’s daily routine. Cats spend up to 50% of their waking hours grooming themselves and each other – a behavior known as allogrooming (Hart & Hart 2013). This not only helps keep them clean but also strengthens social bonds.
Assisting with Difficult-to-Reach Areas
Given their flexibility limitations, certain areas such as the face and rear end are challenging for cats to clean themselves. Hence, they help each other out by licking these hard-to-reach places. This mutual grooming is a sign of trust and camaraderie among cats.
Indication of Social Bonds
Cats that lick each other’s butts are often close companions. This behavior is typically seen in cats that have been raised together or have developed a strong bond over time. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), “Cats that engage in this behavior with each other feel safe and comfortable together” (ASPCA, n.d.).
Establishing a Social Hierarchy
Another aspect to consider is the social hierarchy within a group of cats. The cat doing the licking is often the dominant one in the relationship, asserting its status within the group.
Care Requirements and Considerations
As an owner, it’s essential to understand that this behavior is normal among cats. However, if you notice excessive licking leading to irritation, hair loss, or signs of discomfort in your cat, it may be time to consult a vet. It could indicate underlying health issues such as allergies or parasites.
When to Seek Veterinary Help
If your cat shows signs of distress like excessive scratching, redness, swelling, or changes in bowel movements accompanying the butt-licking behavior, seek immediate veterinary attention. These could be symptoms of medical conditions requiring treatment.
While it may seem odd to us humans, cats licking each other’s butts is a completely normal aspect of their behavior. It serves multiple purposes from communication and hygiene to strengthening social bonds and establishing hierarchy. As responsible pet owners, it’s our job to understand and respect these behaviors while keeping an eye out for any signs of distress or discomfort that may indicate underlying health issues.