Guest post courtesy of Kyle McKay. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily represent the views of Val Heart & Heart Communication Enterprises Inc.
What do we know about cat grooming behavior?
Cats are notorious for their meticulous grooming behaviors. In fact, many felines spend approximately 50% of their waking hours grooming themselves.
Although this may seem excessive, instinctive grooming offers a number of key benefits:
- Cooling– A cat’s saliva evaporates, taking body heat with it.
- Oil distribution – Grooming disperses oils that block moisture and trap heat.
- Claw maintenance– Cats also give themselves a mani-pedi, sprucing up their claws and pads.
- Healing assistance– Cat saliva has antiseptic properties that can help wounds heal.
- Improved circulation– The bristles on a cat’s tongue stimulate blood flow.
- Parasite removal– These bristles also remove any unwanted passengers from fur.
- Relationship building– Cats clean each other to bond and show affection, also known as allogrooming.
- Predator evasion– Grooming removes food particulates that could attract predators.
- Stress reduction– Grooming also relaxes cats and helps minimize social conflicts.
An Early Start
After giving birth to a litter of kittens, feline mothers lick their offspring for purposes beyond grooming and comfort. The mother-assisted grooming stimulates the kittens to release wastes and even start suckling. It’s not until about the fourth or fifth week after birth that the kittens actively groom themselves. Felines that grow up with their fellow littermates will often groom each other well into adulthood.
A cat who doesn’t groom itself sufficiently may encounter a number of health-related problems. On the other hand, over-grooming can be a sign the feline is experiencing high levels of stress, hyperthyroidism or even food allergies.
Unnecessary biting, gnawing and licking will lead to missing patches of hair and raw skin. These signs indicate an immediate problem. The condition of missing patches of fur is often referred to as psychogenic alopecia. It’s advised that pet owners address the problem immediately before it becomes a major health threat to the feline.
A Healthy Coat
A cat’s coat should maintain a consistent sheen and feel soft to the touch. Some dander is acceptable, but too much can be a sign of poor hygiene. Giving your cat a bath once a month with feline-friendly soap will help remove extra oils and dander. Regular brushing removes dead, unwanted fur and keeps the undercoat free of matting. Furthermore, if you see black specks or dander, your cat may have fleas, and you should consult your veterinarian about treatment options. It’s also a good idea to clean your cat’s ears regularly. Here’s an excellent guide on Proper Cat Ear Cleaning.
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This article was previously published June 12, 2014, and was updated on June 2, 2022