If you have owned a cat for a long time then you must be aware of your cat’s distinct behavior of licking itself for a long time. You might have guessed that they are cleaning themselves. You are right to a certain extent but sometimes there is more than simple grooming for your cat licks itself.
Due to different factors, your cat can lick themselves excessively. We are going to discuss those reasons and also know whether your cat is overgrooming or under-grooming themselves. Ans the effect f in your cat as well.
Reasons Your Cat Lick Themselves
There can be many reasons behind your cats grooming themselves. Grooming can be normal to some extent but might be the underlying problem that leads to grooming. Here are some reasons you can consider regarding your cat’s grooming behavior.
To Groom Themselves and Other Cats
The most obvious reason that your cat licks itself is probably to keep its fur nice and clean. A cat spends about half of its time grooming itself. Cat love to keep themselves clean. This is one reason why a cat is considered clean compared to other pet animals like dogs.
Grooming plays a great role when cats become a mother. Mother cats first groom their just born cat to remove the amniotic sac and then to stimulate breathing. Later as the kitten starts nursing, the mother cat will lick its back area to stimulate urination and defecation. The kittens also learn the grooming behavior from their mother and start self-grooming when they are a few weeks old.
They later adopt this behavior to keep themselves clean. The barbed tongues help remove the debris for the fur, detangle the tangled hair, and remove the loose hair. This also ensures there is no parasite infestation case going on.
Sometimes cats might not be able to reach certain parts of their part. So, other cats help them by licking those parts. They have built this habit when they are as little as kittens by licking their siblings. This helps create a bond and a friendship between the cats.
Perfect grooming schedule healthy coat of fur. You might be wondering how to know whether your cat’s fur is healthy or not. These are signs of healthy fur:
– Shiny and soft fur
– Little to no dander
– No bald patches and black specks
– Lest dead undercoat
To Form a Bond with Its Owner
When a cat is a little kitten they have experiences security and are from its mother when they are groomed. They have opted for this behavior towards their close ones as well. If your cat does so then your cat is showing affection and has accepted you as a family. Their saliva has a distinct scent that they love marking on to their friends and family.
Sometimes your cat just is attracted to the lotion you are wearing or the salt on your body. If you think that is the reason your cat is licking you then you might need to be cautious. Most lotions and creams contain essential oil and chemicals that can be toxic to your cat. So, you might want to look for the ingredient contained in the products that your use or prevent your cats from such behavior.
To Deal with Medical Issues
Your cat licking behavior maybe also a sign of any health problems with your cat. You should keep an eye on your cat’s licking pattern, like whether it is focused on licking a particular area. Cats most of the time lick themselves to remove the irritation and pain caused due to different reasons. Medical problems such as oral and digestive disorders, and nausea can also be the reason for your cat grooming.
Sometimes your cat might stop grooming for the same reason as well. If you notice such then something is surely wrong with your cat. If you suspect some problems or notice some complications then you need to take your cat to the vet to get them checked, find the problem, and treated it in time.
To Manage Stress
Cats enjoy grooming themselves. It provides them great pleasure. Usually, they follow a certain pattern when grooming themselves. They might start by licking their paws and then rubbing them over their face and ears. Then work their way toward the lower part of the body. This helps them soothe their mind.
So, it is a great way for cats to release their stress and their anxiety. It reduces their build-up anxiety, frustration, and conflict. This type of behavior of licking themselves is also called ‘displacement behavior’. A highly stressed cat can end up grooming itself in an excessive manner leading to bald patches and irritated spots on the skin. This situation also calls for medical assistance as well.
To Clean Injuries
Ctas saliva contains enzymes that act as sort of an antibiotic. So, if your cat gets small wounds or then it might focus on licking that particular area. The saliva cleans the wound and also keeps it free from infection to some extent. Excessive licking can also lead to infection and keeping the wound wet for a long time can also delay the healing of the wound.
So, it is best to get your cat’s wound treated before it gets worse. If the wound is noticeably large it is best to take them to the vet to get the wound treated to prevent any sort of infection.
To Mask Scent from Predators
Many predators track their prey through the smell left by their prey. Like every predator, cats are also aware that they can get tracked or found their smell. A cat has fourteen times betters sense of smell compared to humans. They can track their prey through the scent as well.
When the cats feel threatened then they mask the smell by grooming themselves. They clean themselves to hide the trace of their scent. This behavior is mostly adopted by the mother cat to protect their kittens. After feeding them the mother cat will clean food and strong odors from the kitten’s skin. Probably to keep them safe from possible predators like snakes, coyotes, or other cats.
To Regulate Body Temperature
Grooming is one of the way cat can regulate their body temperature by keeping themselves cool in the warm season and warm in cold seasons.
Unlike humans, cats do not sweat through the entire surface of their sin. They are only able to sweat from their paws which is not enough for them to keep their body temperature low. So, cats lick themselves to keep their body cool. The saliva from the cat’s tongue helps them cool off.
In the colder season licking help distribute the natural oils from the cat eve,y all over its fur. The oil makes the cat’s fur water-resistant and prevents the heat from passing out the body. This helps keep your cat warm in the colder season.
Now we know the reasons why your cat grooms themselves. But,
Do you know cats can under-groom themselves?
Here are the signs you can look for to know whether your cat is under-grooming or not:
– Matted and dull coat
– Greasy coat
– Food remains left on the face
– Dust and debris caught on the coat
– Dirty paws
– Smelly coat
If you notice these things in your cat then your cat is probably under-grooming. This behavior is also the result of different health problems like joint problems and dental problems. Look out for such problems and take them to the vet if needed.
Excessive grooming resulting in bald patches and irritation can be considered over-grooming. it is a behavioral issue seen in many cats due to different reasons. Most of the time this habit can be the cause of stress or some physical issue, same as a human biting its nails when being exposed to pain or stress. Over-grooming can also be caused due to physical issues as well. It includes allergies, parasitic infestation, injuries, and many more. The stress in cats can be triggered due to many reasons, like :
– Death of its kittens
– Moving to a new place
– Moving the furniture to new places
– Having new family members
Most of the tie over-grooming can go unnoticed as cats groom most of the time. It is necessary to look out for such situations and provide proper care to prevent such behavior.
What to do for the over-grooming cat?
When you notice your cat over-grooming then it is necessary to find if there is any physical issue like parasites or allergies that is causing such behavior. if you do not notice anything then it is best to take them to a vet to find anything that is not noticeable to the bare eye. After running a few tests the doctor would be able to identify the problem.
If no physical issue is seen then due to mental issues your cat might show such behavior. Keeping your cat happy and content is crucial for your cat’s health. (Read: A Happy Cat is a Healthy Cat – 10 Ways to Keep Your Cat Happy) You can buy your cats different toys to provide stimulation for their mind and keep them happy. You can also invest in some grooming brushes to provide an extra helping hand for your cat.
Want to know about your cat’s other behaviors then read:
How to Understand if the Cat is in Pain?
6 Reasons Why Cat Likes to Lay on Chest