Mar 28, 2020

'Why do cats lick themselves?' is a common question raised by most cat owners. When it comes to grooming and cleanliness, cats are undoubtedly the champions. With their barbed tongue, forepaws, and teeth, a cat spends about 50% of its day either licking and grooming itself or another companion. This makes them the masters of cleanliness, and a lot of people prefer a cat over other pets due to this reason. However, some cats tend to take their grooming jobs too seriously until it becomes an obsession.

The Beginning of Grooming

For cats, grooming starts from the moment they are born. Right after a kitten is born, the mother cat licks her kitten to clean her up by removing the amniotic sac, thereby giving comfort. Licking encourages breathing in the newborn kitten and helps in discharging urine and stool. It also stimulates the kitten to suckle. By the time the kitten is around four weeks old, she has already figured out and mastered the art of grooming herself. By the fifth week, the kitten will take her grooming and licking on her mother and her littermates apart from herself. Littermate grooming is also known as allogrooming, which a cat carry with it to adulthood. Allogrooming unifies cats by strengthening their bond.

But why do cats lick themselves so much? The primary reason here is cleanliness. But in addition to cleanliness, there are several factors that influence licking in cats. Let us discuss them below.

Tending Injuries

When little kitty is injured, she will lick her wounds to clean and stave off infection. The rough texture of her tongue also works well in removing dead skin cells.

Concealing Scent

Your little kitty's nose is fourteen times more sensitive than a human's nose. Most of their prey is tracked down by their scent. A wild cat will lick herself and her kitten clean after feeding to conceal their scent and keep themselves safe from predators.

Grooming and Lubricating

A cat's tongue acts like a natural comb to brush off parasites and dirt. A cat does not have sweat glands like a human being. The action of licking keeps them cool during summer.

Licking For Fun

Just like scratching, licking is another innate behavior of cats. You will often see your cat licking her body and her face, which we like to regard as bathing. Not only will they groom themselves, but they will also lick their companions or kittens.

Obsessive Grooming - Why Do Cats Lick Themselves So Much?

We have seen a number of reasons why cats lick themselves. How many times do cats lick themselves? If we talk in terms of numbers, your furball typically spends 30-50% of their time licking and grooming themselves. In a day, your cat will sleep for approximately 15 hours. During their waking time, normal cats will spend about 10% of their time grooming themselves, which can equal roughly one hour in total.

Although it is quite normal behavior, sometimes a cat will get obsessed with licking and resort to excessive grooming. Grooming too much can result in hair loss and skin rashes. If you notice your pet licking and grooming herself a little too much, you might want to keep a check on her health. A stressed cat will be more prone to licking just as some stressed humans resort to nail-biting and hair-pulling. A change in situations and environments usually inflicts stress. A cat likes familiarity and will find it challenging to adapt to new changes. Any type of change, such as a new baby, a new pet, or a new house, can trigger stress and cats leading to obsessive licking.

Another reason for excessive grooming is when a kitten is prematurely taken away from its mother. The kitten will try to make up for the deprived weaning period by excessive self-grooming. However, this habit can gradually lessen over time as the cat matures in a safe environment.

The Relationship Between Licking and Eating

You may see your fluffy cat licking their forepaws after meals. But why lick themselves after meals? After all, they did not touch their food with their paws. So why do cats lick themselves after eating?

As mentioned above, cats are the masters of cleanliness. So they are often more clean than their food. Some food, especially wet food, may splatter and leave stains and smell around their mouth, whiskers, face, and even on their forepaws. Your neat and tidy cat cannot tolerate this type of mess, and they will not stop until they are licked clean.

Equipped with natural cleaning gears, a cat will lick itself with its barbed tongue on every part of the body it can reach. While licking, their saliva helps in dampening their fur, which in turn loosens the dirt particles.

Cats are known for their flexibility. Their tongue can reach almost every part of their body, but there are some parts of the body where they cannot reach. These parts include their face, ears, and the back of their head. To reach these parts, they use their front paws as a sort of washcloth to wipe them clean.

It is amusing to watch a cat during its cleaning ritual. First, your cat will lick its paws, dampening it for use. Then she will lift the damp paw on her face or on the area that needs to be cleaned. This is a repetitive process. She will continue this action until she feels it is cleaned enough. When your cat finishes the face washing ritual, she will top it off by licking and cleaning her paws, which she had used to clean the dirt on her face.

Keep a close watch on your kitty when she eats. You may see her licking even before and during eating. So the answer to the question 'why do cats lick themselves after eating?' is that it is washing up after its meal, a good habit that can be followed by their owners.

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