Helping Guide Bengal Cat Owners

Why Do Cats Not Cleaning Themselves?

Cats are notorious for staying absurdly clean. It’s no wonder since they spend a lot of their day grooming themselves. It’s only natural to wonder why a cat stops grooming themselves. For some pet owners, their curiosity grows into a concern. Rightly, it should. 

There are a few reasons why cats stop cleaning themselves. They are getting older and have more trouble grooming themselves, they are too fat, they may have arthritis or dental problems, or they could have some other illness. 

Read further to figure out why do cats not cleaning themselves. 

Cats and Cleanliness

The fact is cats spend as much time grooming themselves as they do eating, sleeping, and playing. Cats will spend half their awake time cleaning themselves. A cat that stops self-grooming has something wrong with it and you probably should take it to a veterinarian. 

Signs of Improper Grooming

There are some tell-tale signs that your cat isn’t doing as good of a job as it normally does in keeping itself clean. This includes things like

  • The fur loses its softness and shiny appearance.
  • Areas where the coat looks unkempt.
  • The backside near the anus is matted and may have fecal matter or urine in it.
  • Your cat doesn’t wash its face like he used to.
  • There is dirt and debris in his claws.
  • Your cat smells.
  • The coat is greasy.

Reasons Your Cat Is Neglecting Grooming

The bottom line of why your cat isn’t grooming himself is that he doesn’t feel good. Beyond that, only the vet can offer a diagnosis. However, there are several possible reasons you should look into to get to the bottom of your cat’s ill-kept fur. 

He’s Old

Older cats, usually past 14 or so, sometimes stop grooming themselves well. It’s not that they no longer care about the practice but it becomes harder. Older cats aren’t as flexible as they once were and may be overweight.

They can have arthritis or other underlying problems. It could tire them out. It’s kind of like some older people who stop taking care of themselves. It’s so much trouble, they give up.

Pet owners of an aging cat need to help them out with daily brushing and using non-water products to clean the coat. These products also help freshen the scent and moisturize the skin too. 

There are some cat shampoos you can try, depending on your cat. It’s also key to make sure their nutrition stays up and they get checked out for any underlying diseases like diabetes or dysplasia. 

Read: Do Cats Get Oily Fur When Stressed and Why?

Obese Cats Don’t Groom as Well

A fat cat isn’t a healthy one and they have trouble reaching places to groom. Cat owners of a chunky kitty should ask the vet how to help your furry feline lose weight. Your vet can tell you what the weight should be and can point you to cat food that helps in the effort. 

You will also need to cut back on food portions. That may be challenging if your cat is accustomed to getting what he wants. 

Until your cat can lose enough weight to groom himself, you are going to have to do it for him. There are specialty wet wipes sold at pet stores that you can use to help keep your kitty clean.

You can also use a wet washcloth and rub a small part of the washcloth over him with your forefinger guiding it like you are licking him. Your cat will enjoy that and it will keep him cleaner.

Read: What Smells Will Keep Cats Away?


Some cats will stop grooming because they are experiencing some type of pain. Arthritis and dental issues are the two most common culprits for pain in kitties. It could be a sprain or a broken bone.

Whatever the issue, your cat is having trouble moving around. Watch to see how he walks and moves to see if you can identify the pain. You should also inspect your cat to see if there are any injuries. 

Do the inspection gently while you are petting him so he doesn’t get aggravated or aggressive. Make an appointment with the vet so they can do an x-ray and identify the problem. Veterinarians can offer pain management options while your cat heals. 

Dental issues can cause a lot of pain and that may prevent your cat from wanting to self-groom. Who would want to lick constantly if their teeth hurt? Periodontal problems are common in older cats. Try looking at his teeth to check them out. Notify the vet if you suspect any dental problems. 

Veterinarian offices do regular cleanings for both dogs and cats. You should have their teeth cleaned if you see a lot of tarter, although some pets never need their teeth cleaned. 

Dry food and some play toys or treats do a good job of cleaning a pet’s teeth so you should look into those options. They keep your cat’s breath smelling better too.

A vet typically won’t clean the teeth of an older cat because they have to sedate them. That is riskier for older animals.

Read: 3 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Scared of the TV All of a Sudden? 

Other Illnesses

It’s not uncommon for cats to come down sick with a cold or flu and they may not feel like cleaning themselves while they are under the weather. However, most rebound pretty fast and should be back to normal in a couple of days. 

Cats that continue to not groom themselves or show other signs of feeling unwell should be taken to the vet. They could have anything from kidney disease to diabetes. A vet can diagnose and treat where your kitty will be back to normal in no time. 

Grooming Is More Than Looking Good

Cats are often believed to be divas because of their incessant grooming habits but grooming has some practice functions. It distributes their skin’s oils, regulates body temperature, improves circulation, cools the cat down, gets rid of parasites and allergens, and self-soothes the cat. 

A feline that isn’t grooming itself isn’t benefitting from any of these things. That could cause other health problems later. 

Read: Why Is My Cat Walking Slow?

It’s Good To Groom Your Cat

It may feel odd to groom your cat at first because they have been so independent. However, it is important to keep their coat up so they don’t get mats, fleas, and dirt in it. 

Grooming becomes more important for long-haired cats as there is more hair to handle.

Brush it daily and wipe your cat down at least every other day, if not daily. They won’t fight you if you do it gently using wet wipes or a cloth. You will need to clean their ears too.

Your cat may not let you clean and cut the fur on its backside. It depends on the cat and the bond you created with him. A sanitary cleaning may require a professional groomer to complete.

Most all groups and those in the pet store chains can do that as well as completely bathe your pet.

Read: How to Get Rid of Neighbour’s Cats in Your Yard?

Final Thoughts

Grooming is important to cats even if they aren’t doing it properly. It remains an instinct and not doing it makes them unhappy. 

You should find out why your cat has changed its grooming habits and be prepared to groom him until he returns to normal. He will enjoy it and it could be a bonding experience for both of you.

Scroll to Top