Why Do Dogs Groom Cats? + Do Cats Like It?

Why Do Dogs Groom Cats

Everyone has seen a cartoon of a cat being distressed because the family dog licked them.

This is not always a bad thing that causes distress as displayed in our favorite cartoons.


Dogs lick things instinctually and your house cat just happens to be the current target of your canine’s tongue. Licking is almost always a positive thing so do not stress when your dog licks your cat.


When dogs and cats groom each other it is called allogrooming and is an excellent sign that your pets get along and enjoy being by each other.

The only time it will be a problem is if one animal doesn’t want to participate and is actively trying to get away from the other.

This will often present as the dog chasing the cat around the house and trying to pin them down.

It is best to provide an escape path for your cat in these instances.


Why Do Dogs Lick?


Positive reinforcement

  • Dogs enjoy being licked and feel that by sharing something they love they are showing their love to you or their feline friend.
  • It can often be in response to receiving praise or as a reaction to you doing something your dog approves of.


Pack Behavior

  • Licking or grooming can be a form of submission.
  • A dog will lick other members of its pack that it views as being superior.
  • This could mean that all those times your cat batted the puppy around convinced your dog that the cat ranks higher than it in the social structure of your home.



  • Dogs clean themselves by licking or grooming and will often groom other animals or people as a sign of affection.
  • It can also be used as a way to strengthen the bond between cat and dog.
  • Your cat may reciprocate by grooming your dog.


Do Cats Like Being Licked?

puppy licks a cat

As with all things cat-related, it depends on your cat and its tendencies.

Cats are much more solitary than dogs and do not always rely on a pack to survive.

They also are much more particular about having their own personal space.

It is best to observe your cat and dog together to ensure that both parties enjoy the interaction.

  1. Cats do not wag their tails like dogs and when they do it is more often a sign that they are agitated.
  2. Watch for aggressive behavior like hissing or hair standing up
  3. They may exhibit purring or even licking which is a sign of affection
  4. It is best to observe your cats and dogs when they first meet, but often after a short time together the social order will be established.


Differences in Communication Between Dogs and Cats


Tail positioning

  • Dogs will wag their tails when they are happy or content
  • Cats will whip their tail back and forth when they are agitated



  • Dogs will sniff the rear of other animals since it is how they identify pack members
  • Cats bump noses when they greet other cats


Verbal communication

  • Dogs bark and growl, but they have a wide variety of meanings
  • Cats can purr, growl, hiss, and meow. They all have different meanings that dogs will not understand


Rolling over

  • Dogs show their stomach as a sign of submission
  • Cats show their stomach when they are preparing to grab onto something or scratch it


Lifting a paw up

  • Dogs do this to show they are wanting interaction
  • Cats do this as a sign of warning that they are about to use their paw


Ear signals

  • Dogs hold their ears back when fearful and forward when aggressive
  • Cats normally hold their ears forward and up higher or to the side when fearful



Learn More:

Why Do Dogs Become Depressed After Boarding



Similarities in Communication Between Cats and Dogs

Sharp sounds like growls, shrieks, and yelps

  • Both species exhibit these as signs of distress and should recognize them



  • Dogs and cats will stare without blinky when they are showing aggression
  • Blinky is a sign of submission between both species



  • Tension can be displayed in their face or overall body rigidity



  • Both species groom other animals that they are comfortable with


Resting or sleeping

  • This is the ultimate sign of comfort for both species
  • When they lay down by each other it means they have nothing to fear from the other.


What to Do if the Grooming is not Appreciated

annoyed cat

Sometimes dogs are friendlier than cats and want to show that love, more than your cat is willing to tolerate.

Also, dogs are generally bigger than cats and can be aggressive in their display of affection.

Here are some ways you can fix the problem:


1. Make spaces for only your cat to go

This could be a separate room in the house that the dog isn’t allowed or by getting a scratching post that is higher than your dog can reach.

It often a good idea to find a location for a litterbox that a dog cannot get.

They tend to dig through them.


2. Provide enrichment for your dog

Pent-up energy is often a cause of canine misbehavior.

Taking your dogs on walks or playing with them in the yard are good activities to keep their attention away from the cat.

Stimulating your dog’s mind is also an important facet of enrichment.

This can be accomplished by getting special toys or food bowls.


3. Keep their toys and food separate

This is key, dogs in multi-animal households tend to grow aggressive when they are eating next to other animals.

They will show hoarding tendencies and become overprotective of all the food and toys.


Key Takeaway

Dogs grooming cats is often a good thing because it is how both animals show friendship.

Make sure that both animals are enjoying the interaction and if it is necessary separate them.

If it is necessary you can work with a professional trainer or vet in training your dog and cat to get along.

When your dogs and cats get along your house will be a happier house.


See Also


A pet owner who loves to share useful facts and information about a variety of animals.