Photo of @queen.bengal on Instagram
Many humans prefer us cats as pets because of our prestigious ability to clean ourselves. It’s true—we actually spend about 15-50 percent of our waking hours cleaning ourselves. A behavior that may seem a little excessive from a human’s purrrspective, but one that’s completely normal to us cats.
However, in some cases, grooming can become an obsession—especially for problematic cats. In this case, it’s very important to consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
We cats groom for several harmless reasons, but unfortunately, our grooming can sometimes mean a cry for help. That’s why it’s best for cat pawrents to be familiar with the reasons why we clean ourselves like we do and know the difference between regular grooming and obsessive grooming.
Here are 6 purrrfectly normal reasons why cats groom:
- Mommy duties
After giving birth, cat moms actually lick the amniotic sac off their kittens and then use their tongue to massage their tiny bodies to stimulate breathing, and their rear openings, to start bowel movement when they begin nursing.
As the kittens mature, they eventually learn how to groom themselves and their littermates, on their own.
- Wound cleansing
Can I let you in on a little secret? Our saliva is medicine! Yep, you heard that right. Our saliva contains bacteria and germ fighting compounds that keep infection at bay. It also contains a substance called, opiorphin, that acts as an analgesic and relieves pain. Our tongue on the other hand, helps remove dirt, dead skin and foreign particles from getting into the wound before it closes, while also improving blood flow around the area. The perfect combination for a speedy recovery!
- Protection from predators
Predators are known to have incredible sense of smell and they always use it to their advantage. In the wild, scent tracking is one of the most effective ways to hunt for prey and as good as we cats are at hunting, we’re also easy prey for many larger animals. For that reason, we instinctively remove all odor-causing agents, such as food, to avoid being detected.
- Coat and skin lubrication
Our tongue has tiny barbs that help remove dirt, dead skin and loose hair from our coat. They also help stimulate blood circulation and trigger the production of natural oils. We use our tongue to then spread these natural oils all throughout our body to keep our skin moisturized and our coat shiny and smooth.
Grooming is one way for us to make friends and bond with other animals, even humans. In our language, it’s how we say “I like you”.
Grooming is a very relaxing activity for us cats. It helps keep our stress levels at bay and reduces anxiety. We sometimes also groom other cats or animals to share this grooming benefit. We also love the scent of ourselves! We groom because the scent is relaxing to us. That’s also why we head bump people, we rub our scent glands all over them so that others know that they are ours.
SYMPTOMS OF OVERGROOMING:
- Grooming starts to interrupt your cat’s other activities
- Irritability or discomfort when scratching
- Bald spots
- Skin sores
- Skin redness
CAUSES OF OVERGROOMING:
- Food allegies
- Parasites (like fleas)
- Skin irritation
- Extreme stress or anxiety
- Psychogenic alopecia
If your cat is showing any signs of over grooming, take them to the vet immediately. Your veterinarian will run a series of diagnostic tests to find out what may be causing your cat to over groom and treat them accordingly.