Yes, our feline friends are very clean creatures, spending as much as three hours a day grooming themselves. So why do cats groom themselves so much?
As it turns out, although cats are very clean creatures, there are other reasons for so much self-grooming time. During the colder months, licking smoothes the fur, trapping the warm air close to the body and keeping them warm as a result. Licking also helps stimulate glands in the skin that give off secretions to keep their coat resistant to water. We all know how most cats feel about water!
Have you noticed your cat grooming himself immediately after you touch him? Cats prefer their own scent to ours, so the grooming is the means to replace their scent and getting rid of ours.
Even though cats are great contortionists, there are a few areas of their body they can’t reach to groom, such as their ears, face and back of the head. That’s when they lick their paws to moisten them and get those areas clean……..the feline version of a washcloth.
Cats sometimes use grooming as stress relief, similar to taking a shower after a hard day at the office. It’s important to monitor the amount of grooming your cat does daily. Over-grooming can signal a health or behavioral problem. Cats that over-groom can end up with bald patches or skin inflammation.
On the other hand, if you notice your cat failing to groom himself, this can also be a sign of illness.
Because of the amount of self-grooming cats do, they may develop hairballs. If your cat is long-haired, it’s especially important to brush him regularly to prevent matting. Cats generally pass hairballs as part of the elimination process, but sometimes you may find a “surprise”. The occasional hairball isn’t usually a problem, if your cat is vomiting hairballs on a very regular basis or in large amounts, consult your veterinarian. If hairballs are not expelled, they may become large enough to cause a blockage requiring surgery to clear.