Saturday 27 May 2023

Interspecies allogrooming

Interspecies allogrooming occurs when animals of two different species groom each other. This is mutual grooming. It may be the case that one member of the couple grooms the other more often than the other grooms them. So, it might not be entirely mutual.

In all cases it is an altruistic animal behaviour in which one animal grooms the other without expecting or demanding anything in return (unconditionally). They give it to them voluntarily and with pleasure. But it can be entirely mutual most often when the same species engages in allogrooming such as between two domestic or feral cats who are friendly with each other.

The unconditional nature of allogrooming must seem special to humans as we nearly always give conditionally even if it is not said but simply in the mind of the donor.

In this instance we see a group of cows frantically allogrooming a ginger tabby cat who must be very familiar to them because he lives in and around their barn. It's probable that the cat sometimes grooms the cows but because of size difference the effectiveness of a cat grooming a cow is going to be far less than a cow grooming a cat!

This cat has pretty well been licked all over within about 15 seconds thanks to the attention of their cow friends. I wonder how a cat feels when they are receiving the saliva of another species? They seem to accept it entirely which I find slightly strange because domestic cats are fastidious auto-groomers (self-grooming). They are very concerned about their personal hygiene.

You would have thought that they might only want their own saliva on their fur coats but apparently not. You see lots of dogs licking cats, normally in a home where there are cats and dogs as family members.

Perhaps the bigger animal takes on the bigger role in allogrooming simply because it is more effective if they do it.

I have seen some amazing interspecies relationships even with dolphins befriending domestic cats. Under those circumstances it is obviously impractical for the marine animals to groom a domestic cat but they can kiss each other! I've seen that.

The same would apply to birds such as crows befriending domestic cats, which I have also seen. You might see crows nibbling a domestic cat's fur as their form of allogrooming. This would possibly be effective in getting rid of ectoparasites such as ticks and fleas on their skin.

There is almost nothing better than a beautiful interspecies friendship. We should remind ourselves that this is exactly the relationship we have with our cat companions.

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