Why Cats Groom Themselves – Understanding Your Cat’s Grooming Habits
Ever wondered why cats spend a lot of time grooming? If so, keep on reading because we have revealed this mystery once for all.
Cats are known for being clean animals. Even if you pick up a stray feline and bring her home, the chances are that the vet will tell not to bath her, unless there are fleas, of course – because she will clean herself perfectly once she is in the clean and welcoming surrounding.
Cats are clean animals, and no one can argue that, and it’s true.
Did you know that an average cat can spend up to 50% of her time grooming herself or even another cat? As a result, cats are extremely clean.
True, in some cases, cleaning can be a form of obsession, and then that’s something you need to communicate with your veterinarian and find the best solution to address this problem.
All The Right Parts
Cats fluffy and flexible animals, who are well-equipped for grooming.
They can reach almost every body part using their tongue and paws. Cats paws are like a comb, and the tongue has sharp teeth, so every part is joined in to transform into a nicely tuned grooming machine.
A feline can use even her front paws to stimulate tiny oil glands on her head.
The oil is a cat’s “perfume” and is spread all over the body. This oil is what cats love to transform on your furniture, which is why they adore scratching your favorite chair and couch.
Clean From Day One
After giving birth, the mother cat’s first job is to remove the amniotic sac, after which she has to lick kittens with her rough tongue to help stimulate its breathing.
Later on, when kittens move to nursing, the mother cat will give the kitten’s anus a “tongue massage” to help stimulate a bowel movement. Therefore, kittens will start self-grooming by the time they are only a few weeks old.
If kittens are part of a litter, they are likely to lick and groom one another as well. This is the primary reason why cats clean themself – because their mother ‘told’ them what to do.
To Cleanse Injuries
Cats are silent creatures who like to have control over the situation and their needs. You probably know that cats love to suffer in silence.
Only when they are in severe trouble or a harrowing situation they will make a sound and call for you, and this is a small percentage for felines.
In most cases, when in pain, cats will suffer in dark places and in silence. One of the reasons cats may groom themself strongly is to wash their injuries – this is their way of cleansing the wounds and even preventing infection. Licking with a rough tongue can also remove dead skin cells.
To Hide Scent From Predators
Did you know that Cats’ sense of smell is fourteen times more powerful than that of humans?
Cats are predators, and just like more giant in size predators, cats will track prey through scent.
A mother cat in the wild will try to hide her young kittens by removing their feeding evidence.
She will even go a step further and wash herself and the kitten thoroughly after nursing. This is the same background logic for cats to bury uneaten dead prey in the wild.
You may spot the same instinctual behavior when you see a cat scratching at the floor around the food dish after eating.
To Groom and Lubricate the Coat and Skin
When cats groom, and they do groom a lot, their barb-like tongues stimulate the sebaceous glands at the base of their hairs and spread the resultant sebum throughout the hairs.
By self-grooming, they are actually removing the coat of dirt and many parasites, such as fleas.
Cats don’t have sweat glands, which is why their saliva somewhat helps them cool down on hot days.
Yes, some cats will groom for pleasure. Not only that grooming is practical and mandatory, but it can also bring sensations that cats may enjoy.
Cats are all about sharing because sharing is caring, which is why they will also groom one another, and even humans if needed. The reason for this behavior? They want to share positive sensations.
Grooming is an every day habit that every feline does. However, in some cats, grooming can become obsessive.
Easily, and unplanned, grooming to excess can become an obsessive-compulsive behavior which can lead to bald patches and skin sores.
Reasons for overgrooming may vary, but the most common reason for this behavior is caused by stress and may be likened to humans’ habit of biting their nails to the quick. Cats are creatures of habit, and they dislike when something in their routine changes.
A new home, a new baby, a death in the family, and even rearranging furniture can trigger this obsession.
Also, physical causes for this practice might include ringworm or flea bites, which is why it’s extremely important to rule those out before diagnosing a stress response.
The weaning period is extremely important both for mother and kittens, and if kittens are taken away from their mothers at a very early age will often self-groom by licking or sucking.
In most cases, this behavior will lessen or disappear over time if the kitten is kept in a safe and predictable environment.
What About Under-Grooming?
Sometimes less isn’t more; sometimes less is just less and wrong. Cats should always show balance in their habit, which is why under-grooming is seen as a problem.
Regular self-grooming helps your cat feels better, look betters, and be healthier. So, if your cat suddenly stops grooming herself, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
It may mean that your feline is ill, and under-grooming can easily be a sign of pain, dental problems, or even arthritis. The cats who are taken from their mothers too early may also not know how to clean themselves properly.
If you notice any of the following signs, it means that your cat in under-grooming and visiting a veterinarian is in order:
- A harsh or greasy coat
- Small mats of fur on her body or tail
- Staining on the paws from urine or residue
- Foul smell
- Food particles on her face or chest after meals
If the veterinarian confirms that everything is fine with your feline, you probably just have to encourage her a bit to care more about her grooming habits.
So, to encourage her to begin grooming, start by brushing her daily.
Brushing is beneficial for your feline is long as you have the right grooming tools.
By brushing your cat, you are actually stimulating her skin and blood circulation and rids her of fleas and ticks. Also important: when your cat is busy grooming herself, don’t interrupt her.
Grooming is her time, and she should be able to clean herself without distractions and stress. This is an important part of your cat’s routine, so let her make the most of it.
Why Do Cats Groom – Quick Check List
As mentioned earlier, cats groom themselves for various reasons. They groom themselves to stay clean, to protect from many predators, when they step into something nasty and for many health-related reasons.
Here are the most common reason listed:
- To keep body temperature in balance
- To keep the coat clean
- To distribute natural skin oils
- To stimulate circulation
- To cool herself during warmer days
- To eliminate allergies, infection, and parasites
- To prevent hairballs
- Displacement behavior: this behavior may mean that your cat is feeling embarrassed, anxious and that she is in some kind of conflict.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to personal hygiene, no one can top cats. They are naturally armed with the right grooming tools that help them keep their coat shiny and safe.
Adult cats may spend as much as half of their waking hours grooming themselves, their relatives, and friends.
Some people may think that no extra grooming is need from their side, but the truth is that cats can always need an extra hand.
Plus, grooming your cat isn’t only about the coat’s condition but also about your bonding with your feline through mutual activity.
Of course, if your cat sees brushing and grooming session as extravagating and she shows strong discomfort, don’t force it. It would be best to teach your cat to be handled as a kitten.
This way, she won’t see grooming as stressful. If your cat is prone to hairballs, excessive shedding, or even matting fur, you may need to leave the grooming to a professional groomer.
If you have a senior cat talk to your veterinarian about proper care and needs.
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