Why Do Cats Groom Themselves So Much?

Cats are meticulously clean. When they’re not sleeping or eating they can usually be found in yoga-like positions licking themselves down. They can spend almost 50% of their waking hours just grooming themselves! It’s almost a ritual for them – they have an order to their grooming habits. It’s easy to understand why they like to be clean but they are almost obsessive about it.

It’s Not Always About Cleanliness

Grooming has many purposes for cats. Often it’s about being comfortable or healthy. 

  • Licking themselves down helps them to regulate their body temperature, especially on warmer days
  • They can eliminate parasites that embed themselves in the cat’s fur
  • The cat’s natural oils are spread around through the licking motion helping them to spread their scent wherever they go
  • Grooming helps calm a cat when she feels anxious

Grooming Their Young

Momma cats routinely lick their babies. This is a way of stimulating them into urinating and defecating. As unappetizing as it sounds nursing cats will lick away the urine and feces to keep their kittens clean. Licking comforts their young until they are mature enough to groom themselves. 

Too Much Grooming

Cats spend a lot of time grooming. If you notice your cat paying attention to one area, start taking note. This can lead to sores. It’s important to determine why she is going after a specific spot. 

Overgrooming may come from anxiety. Has anything in your household changed recently? If your cat doesn’t feel comfortable in her own home, grooming may be a way to deal with the changes.

Parasites are also a cause of overgrooming. Fleas, for example, tend to cluster in certain areas on your cat’s body. If you think fleas might be the cause, immediately apply a high-quality flea ointment. 

Your cat might simply have itchy skin or an allergy. There are groomers who provide services for felines, too! We are conditioned to believe that cats never need to be groomed. The groomer will give her a nice, calming bath, a brush-down, and nail trimming. Regular professional grooming will help take the burden off your kitty’s paws as well as preventing hairballs.

Not Enough Grooming

Since cats live to groom themselves insufficient grooming is a worrisome thing. When you notice your cat’s fur getting dull and matted it’s a sign that she is ailing. While a vet trip is in order, you can in the meantime have her professionally groomed so that she is feeling her best. When cats aren’t clean they don’t feel comfortable. 

Side Effects of Your Cat’s Grooming Habits

  • Hairballs are very common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. If your cat is shedding too much, you may want to step in with a brush that eliminates the loose fur. Think about feeding your cat a diet targeted to eliminate hairballs.
  • Parasitic infections are rampant as well. Because the cat licks every part of her body she can infect herself repeatedly if you do not eliminate the source of the infection. A kitty with fleas will inadvertently eat them thereby causing a tapeworm infection. You’ll have to give her several rounds of flea meds and at least a couple rounds of worm medication in order to eliminate the parasites. 
  • Eating kitty litter is a real problem that can make your cat sick. The litter gets stuck in the fur and paws. As your cat grooms herself she will eat the litter particles. Clay and clumping litter seem to be the common culprits. Parasitic diseases, harmful chemicals, and possible choking are the most commonly reported problems when cats eat their litter. Instead of clay, try crystals. The crystals are usually round particles which means they’ll easily fall out of your cat’s claws and fur.

By Gabrielle Allemeier


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About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.