I have two 3-year-old cats. They are siblings (same litter), one female, one male. They get along reasonably well, with the occasional boxing and hissing match but nothing too serious (see my previous questions for examples), but also playing and sleeping next to each other in adorable positions on occasion.

Curiously, the female will lick the male (especially on the head, which is harder for him to clean himself) quite often (maybe a couple of times a day) and he enjoys it just fine. In fact, he'll often then try to lick her in return.

Thing is, she hates it when he does that. He can't lick her for two seconds before getting boxed in the face.

I've read that there is a hierarchy to licking, with the most senior cat usually starting the licking party. However, that article also states that the cat may do that with the expectation of getting licked back.

For the record, my wife and I are unsure of who's the more senior of our two cats. The male is significantly larger, so he's got a clear advantage on the physical aspect, but we also think the female is in the running (though I'm having trouble putting into words why). We usually conclude that they're actually competing for the role to this day.

So, is there anything to read into the female's behavior? Or is it probably just a personality thing (she's just not that into being licked)?

  • Hellp @Wasabi I think we can only speculate. As you mentioned it might be a something reate to hierarchy.My cats have the same reactions. they are also brother and sister. I guess they are physically the same also. The female doesn't like to be licked she'll whoop his ass when he tries. Are your cats physically ok? is he licking her at some part of the head that hurts her maybe? If that's not the case i guess nothing to worry about. Just as a conclusion my female cat is smaller in size by she's the boss too. She doesn't like to be pushed around. NO worries
    – Hani Gotc
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 17:11
  • @HaniGotc, oh yeah, I'm not worried about it. I'm honestly just curious to know if it means anything in cats in general or if it's just an idiosyncrasy.
    – Wasabi
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 0:03

3 Answers 3


It is likely just like a personality thing, and very similar to my two cat's situation. They aren't litter mates, but I adopted them at the same age, at the same time, as kittens. It's unclear the heirarchy of the cats, because it always depends on the scenario - Boy cat is dominant during play time, girl cat is dominant during feeding and snuggles.

My girl cat licks the boy cats head if he's close enough. He used to try and reciprocate, but has since learned she doesn't like it. Given time, I'm sure your cats will do the same. It is certainly nothing to worry about, as it sounds like they have a healthy relationship otherwise.


In the wild, the male cats have a territories what they keep from intruders: other male cats. They allow the female cats to exist in their "empire".

Also the female cats do the same, but they do this only with the other females and they allow the males to come in.

The result is that both the male- and the female are in mutually disjunct structures, but they overlap.

However, your cats are siblings, thus they could accustome to eachother. You don't mention, but I strongly assume, that both are neutered. Thus, none of them has a reproductive instinct, and can't feel the odor of a male/female on the other.

On these reasons, I think your cats are bound by the quasi-randomly appeared customs as they were grown together, and they see eachother probably still siblings in their kitten age. This is why are they still playing with eachother. They never had any idea that things could go also very differently.

Probably there is no seniority line between them, or if there is, they don't take it very seriously. But probably the larger is the first.

In short: it is a personality thing.

There might be some chance, that the "offended" cat feel something in the licking, what is unpleasant for she. It is most likely an odor. What we feel extremely disgusting in the pee of an adult male cat, this is a dangerous and disgusting thing for any cat (particularly for the adult males, but even for the kittens). Except the adult females in heat, who find it attracting.

I think, if it is not a personality thing, then she might feel some remains of the male odor of her sibling, not only in his pee, but also in his saliva, and she finds it disgusting and dangerous. She essentially says: "I won't mate with you, go away", although she doesn't know, that - in the lack of an uterus - she won't ever.


I tend to think it's a personality thing as said earlier.

I have two cats, both girls from the same litter (and born in my own home while i was taking care of their mother because her owner, a relative of mine, had an operation and couldn't take care of the pregnant cat). They were separated for two months because my relative took one of them with the mother when the babies were 3 months old, and the other one stayed with me and an older male neutered for some months before her sister came back living with us.

While there were only the old male and babycat N, he used to lick her everytime he was licking himself and she was around. She never licked back though. But they took this habit of mutual bath. And they slept one beside the other.

In the meantime, mothercat didn't bring much attention to babycat P and was mostly distant if not aggressive. Since their relationship became more and more toxic, and seeing that my cats were really friendly, both my relative and I agreed for babycat P to come live at my home. Things were fine with the three of them, even though babycat P were all shy and fearful.

Some months later, old male passed out in his sleep (he was almost 19), and after that, the two sisters being alone together changed in their behavior. No more mutual licking or together sleeping, babycat P refusing babycat N both to take the role of old cat and taking herself that role, she stopped that habit for both of them. Now they still play together and live well, turning 3 y/o next month.

It just proves, in my opinion, that they have their own personalities and accept some behavior depending on what they like most.

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