why do cats lick their lips when their fighting?

Cat Fight Body Language

As cat owners, it is essential to understand the various behaviors and body language displayed by our feline companions. One intriguing behavior that often leaves us puzzled is when cats lick their lips during fights. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of feline communication and explore the reasons behind this peculiar lip licking behavior exhibited during cat fights.

Fighting Cats and Lip Licking

why do cats lick their lips when their fighting

Cat fights can be intense and full of complex emotions. When cats engage in combat, their body language becomes a crucial part of their communication. Lip licking is one such behavior that plays a significant role in feline fight postures.

Explaining Cat Lip Licking

Cats are highly expressive animals, and they often use their body language to communicate their intentions and emotions. When cats lick their lips during fights, it serves as a signal to convey their intentions and assert dominance.

Feline Communication During Fights

Understanding cat fight postures and their accompanying behaviors can help us decipher the message behind lip licking during fights. One possible interpretation of this behavior is that the cat is showing a submissive stance to diffuse the conflict. By licking their lips, a cat is displaying appeasement behavior, signaling that they do not pose a threat or want to escalate the fight.

It is important to note that not all lip licking during fights is submissive in nature. In some cases, lip licking can also be an expression of frustration or anxiety. Cats may lick their lips as a way to relieve stress during a confrontation, similar to how humans might bite their nails or fidget in tense situations.

Exploring Cat Fight Responses

Cats have evolved a range of fight responses to deal with conflicts. Understanding these responses can shed light on why cats lick their lips during fights. When engaged in combat, cats may display aggressive behaviors such as hissing, growling, and swatting. However, they also implement several subtle calming signals to avoid physical altercations.

Lip licking is one of these calming signals that helps cats avoid escalation and maintain social harmony. By licking their lips, cats communicate their desire to de-escalate the situation and restore peace.

Understanding Cat Fight Postures

Before diving deeper into lip licking behavior, let's take a moment to understand some common cat fight postures. These postures can give us valuable insights into the intentions and emotional state of the cats involved.

1. Defensive Posture: When a cat feels threatened, it may assume a defensive posture. This includes crouching low to the ground, ears flattened, and tail tucked between the hind legs.

2. Aggressive Posture: An aggressive cat will puff up its fur, arch its back, and raise its tail upright, resembling a bottlebrush.

3. Dominant Posture: A dominant cat will hold its head high, with its ears pointed forward and tail held upright. It may also display challenging behaviors like hissing or growling.

Interpreting Cat Lip Movements

Lip movements during cat fights can vary in intensity and frequency. Careful observation can help us interpret these movements and understand the underlying message.

1. Casual Lip Licking: Cats may engage in light and infrequent lip licking during minor disputes. This behavior can indicate a temporary pause in the confrontation or a moment of reassessment.

2. Excessive Lip Licking: When lip licking becomes intense and repetitive, it may indicate heightened stress levels. A cat exhibiting excessive lip licking might be overwhelmed by the conflict and attempting to cope with anxiety.

Cat Lip Licking Behavior

While lip licking during fights predominantly serves as a pacifying signal, it is crucial to consider individual differences and personality traits. Some cats may have learned different coping mechanisms, and lip licking might not be their preferred behavior during conflicts.

Additionally, it is essential to note that lip licking should not be confused with aggressive behaviors like lip smacking or excessive drooling. These behaviors can be signs of underlying health issues and require immediate veterinary attention.

Why Do Cats Lick Their Lips When They're Fighting?

The primary reason why cats lick their lips during fights is to communicate their intent to de-escalate the confrontation. By displaying appeasement behavior, cats hope to diffuse tension and avoid physical altercations. Lip licking is a way for cats to communicate their non-threatening stance and maintain social order within their group.

Furthermore, lip licking can also serve as a self-soothing behavior for cats. Just as humans might engage in stress-relieving habits during tense situations, cats may lick their lips to cope with the anxiety and frustration associated with fights.


Lip licking during cat fights is a fascinating behavior that provides us with valuable insights into feline communication. By understanding the various postures and behaviors displayed during fights, we can decipher the underlying messages cats convey through their body language. Lip licking, in particular, serves as a pacifying signal, allowing cats to de-escalate conflicts and restore harmony within their social groups. So the next time you witness cats licking their lips during a fight, you'll have a better understanding of their intentions and emotions.