Kitty Grooming: Why Do Cats Lick Themselves?
Your kitty likes to keep their fur in a very purr-ticular way!
Cats are very clean animals. You may have noticed that your furry friend works hard to keep their coat in excellent shape, and spends lots of time grooming, cleaning and licking their coat. In fact, your preening pet may spend up to 30-50% of their day making sure their fur is just right.
This grooming behavior is completely natural - and is a defining kitty trait! But, did you know that there are lots of reasons why your cat might be licking their fur?
6 Reasons Your Kitty Might Lick Their Fur
1. They’re keeping clean!
Reason number one that your kitty licks their coat is cleanliness! Your pet is an expert at grooming themselves and will sit and clean their fur with their tongue wherever they are. Some cats, especially long-haired varieties, may appreciate a little grooming help every now and then. Brushing your kitty can be a great way to bond with them, and can help to remove loose hair, especially if your pet is shedding their winter fluff!
2. Grooming is a learned behavior
Even as kittens, cats work hard to be expert groomers! Coat grooming is a learned behavior, and at just 2 weeks of age, kittens are learning to lick their coats. By the time a kitty is 4 weeks old, they’ll be copying the adults completely - and fully washing themselves.
3. Your kitty’s keeping their coat in great shape!
Just like human hair, cat’s fur needs a little upkeep to stay in great shape. When your cat licks their fur they’re doing more than just washing. They’re working hard to remove loose hair and prevent tangled, matted fur, as well as removing dirt and any parasites that might have jumped on!
Licking also helps to improve circulation and natural blood flow, as well as helping your cat to spread sebum (the natural oil that’s produced at the base of hair follicles) across their fur - giving them a shiny, waterproof coat!
4. Grooming is soothing
Did you know that by grooming their fur, your pet may be helping themselves to relax? The act of licking is naturally soothing to cats - so their grooming routine is a ritual to help them unwind! Of course, if your cat is stressed or unhappy, they might groom a little too much in response. So, if you notice that your purr-fect pal is overgrooming (excessively biting, licking, chewing or pulling out their fur) try to identify if there are any stress factors that might be causing this behavior.
5. Licking is a survival instinct
Have you noticed that your pet licks their coat after they’ve eaten? This is often a response to a survival instinct that many cats have in the wild - as cats can be both predators and prey, they will want to remove any scent of food or traces of their meal from their fur after eating! This would stop any other predators from noticing them, and will help your kitty restore their own natural scent so that other family members can recognize them.
6. Coat licking keeps your kitty cool
While humans sweat on hot days, and dogs pant to cool themselves, your cat can’t do either of these things! Instead, your kitty will stay cool and control their temperature by licking their coat. As the saliva evaporates from their fur, it has a cooling effect, ensuring your pet stays at the right temperature even on hot days!
What Does It Mean If My Cat Licks Me, or Other People?
Now we know why cats lick themselves! But what if they lick other animals and people - or you?
It’s common to see your cat appearing to lick or groom other cats, other close animals such as dogs and people, and it’s a sure sign of kitty familiarity and friendliness! This activity is something that cats do together as a way to group-mark or scent, and is a way to bond, connect and recognize each other. Mother cats will also lick and groom their kittens to clean them and teach them how to groom.
So, if your kitty likes to come up and seems to want to groom you - it’s a great sign that they are happy and see you as their family!
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