Healthy cats will groom multiple times during their waking hours, usually in short bursts. As far as cats are concerned, cleanliness is next to godliness. And most cat owners agree. It’s a pleasant side of your cat – grooming and licking himself until his fur is soft and shiny. We all love a clean pet.
Maybe you often wondered why your cat licks herself after you have just pet her? The reason a cat will immediately wash every inch of fur on his body after you’ve given it a good rub down is to get rid of your human scent and replace it with his own. Cat’s live in a highly sensory world.
In terms of numbers, however, cats sleep roughly 15 hours a day and groom 10 percent of their waking hours, or about an hour total unless they have a need for more.
Self-grooming is a natural behavior, and in short-haired breeds is usually sufficient to keep the animal’s coat in excellent shape with some help from you and a brush or comb. This added “extra” on your part not only keeps the animal’s coat healthy, but cuts down on the incidents of hairball vomiting — which is not pleasant for you or the cat!
Here are some reasons for your cat to do her regular bath:
- Waterproofing– When your cat licks and tugs at his coat, he stimulates glands at the base of the hairs to release a secretion that helps keep his coat waterproof.
- Heat regulation– During hot or cold weather, licking the coat acts as a built-in thermostat. Your cat licks his fur to keep warm or to keep cool. During cold weather, licking the fur smoothes the fur down and traps the air to keep your kitty warm. And during the warm summer months, because cats have a very limited ability to sweat, saliva evaporates off the wet fur and helps keep it cool.
- Displacement behavior– Grooming is the most common form of displacement behavior in cats. It seems to help cats cope with stress by lowering their arousal level. For example, if your cat is intimidated by another household animal, you may notice that during an encounter, he may nonchalantly groom himself for several minutes.
SIGNALS SHOWING THAT SOMETHING’S NOT RIGHT
If a cat becomes obsessive about its grooming, a visit to the veterinarian is in order, particularly if the behavior is confined to a single area, for instance obsessively licking between the same two toes. This may indicate the presence of a growth or some other kind of irritation.
The same is true of scratching, which may signal “passengers” onboard — either ticks or fleas. In your cat’s desire to be rid of the pests, he can easily injure himself to the point of bleeding.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CAT DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO GROOM ITSELF OR IT IS A BABY?
Natural or not, however, some cats are lazy about their self-care. If you have a cat who is a bit of a slob or it is still a newborn, you can encourage better self-grooming by rubbing a moistened washcloth over the animal.