Cats lick their fur to clean and groom themselves. Cats don’t like baths and showers like humans do, so they clean themselves by licking.
In fact, cats generally spend 30% – 40% of their time grooming themselves.
Why do cats groom?
Grooming has many hygienic and psychological benefits:
- helps to eliminate parasites
- keep the cat’s coat clean and smooth
- cools the cat down through evaporation of saliva
- stimulate the glands that are attached to hair roots, which keeps the fur water-proofed (we all know cats hate water!)
- reduce conflict, frustration, and anxiety
When do cats begin grooming?
A mother cat begins licking her kittens immediately after giving birth. She does this to clean them and to stimulate them to release urine and feces. Kittens usually don’t start grooming themselves until they are about 4 weeks in age. A week after they, they start helping eachother out with their grooming.
Did you know? When littermates groom eachother it is called allogrooming.
Allogrooming generally continues into adulthood and will often strengthen the bond between cats. Therefore, if you introduce a new cat into your home and they start grooming each other, it is a very good sign that they are getting along and beginning to bond with each other.
You’re probably wondering how cats clean their heads if they can’t reach with their tongues. Well, in this case they apply saliva on a paw by licking the paw. Next, they use a circular motion with their paw on their ears, face, head, etc. They repeat this many times until they decide they are clean. Or of course, if they get bored or tired.
Is my cat grooming too much?
Over-grooming (in the form of excessive licking, biting, nibbling, chewing, or sucking the coat or skin) with no underlying medical reason, can usually be attributed to stress. Yes, cats do get stressed out! Common causes of stress in cats include: fear, lack of stimulation, new household pet, new location, isolation, or even new sounds, new food, etc. Anything that is new can stress out your cat!
Your cat may also over-groom if he is sick or feeling ill. You should take your cat to see a veterinarian if you feel your cat is grooming excessively, especially if he is presenting additional symptoms.