Why Do Cats Groom So Often?
By PetPav and comments by Diane Weinmann
Cat lovers know how our cats are such clean pets because they groom themselves all the time. Not that we’re complaining. As it turns out, cats spend as much as half of their waking time grooming themselves or other cats! We absolutely enjoy the benefits, but why do cats groom so often?
Cats learn grooming from birth
The mother cat’s first job after giving birth is to remove the amniotic sac, then lick the kitten with her rough tongue to help stimulate its breathing. Kittens, emulating their mothers, start self-grooming by the time they’re a few weeks old. If they are part of a litter, they are likely to lick and groom one another as well. Or even when simply sitting next to each other…in harmony!
Here are some of the reasons your cat will groom (which is why it can happen all day!):
Cats usually groom themselves to stay clean. Their tongue is used like a comb and removes old fur, loose fur, and dirt. Cats are naturally clean animals and this helps maintain a healthy coat and is a sign of good health.
To clean injuries
Cats wash their injuries to cleanse the wounds, and possibly to prevent infection. Licking with a rough tongue can also remove dead skin cell.
To hide their scent from predators
Cats’ sense of smell is fourteen times more powerful than that of humans. Most predators, including cats, track prey through scent. A mother cat in the wild will try to hide her young kittens by removing evidence of their feeding. She will wash herself and them thoroughly after nursing. This is the same instinct as when a cat scratches the floor around the food dish after eating.
To lubricate their fur
When cats groom, their barb-like tongues stimulate the sebaceous glands at the base of their hairs and spread the resultant sebum throughout the hairs. Their self-grooming also helps rid the coat of dirt and parasites such as fleas.
This type of grooming helps a cat feel better emotionally. If your cat was just frightened or feels tense, grooming is a calming mechanism. Emotional or displacement grooming helps them deal with stress.
Cats don’t sweat so grooming themselves is a way to cool themselves down in warm weather and keeps the fur closer to their skin to retain heat in cold weather. When a cat licks and tugs at its fur, it stimulates the follicles to release oils that can also help waterproof your cat.
If you have two or more cats, they may groom each other from time to time. It’s a way to express friendship and more of a social activity than a hygienic one. Mutually grooming usually expresses comfort, companionship, and even love among cats. Your cat may even groom you (sign of love).
If your cat stops grooming, this could be a sign of a health issue and it might be time to take your cat to the vet. On the other hand, if your cat is excessively grooming and pulling out his or her fur, you should speak with your vet to find out the cause.
In my 20 year’s experience with pets, and of course by life with my two cats who have passed into spirit, you will witness a marked decrease in the ability to clean and groom themselves in their later years. Many reasons cause this decline but the most obvious is their lack of flexibility to contort their bodies to be able to do the job! Much like people in our later years—we have a hard time touching our toes.