Why are cats called self groomers ?

Published | 3 min read
Why are cats called self groomers ?


Cats firmly believe health is wealth, which is why they spend hours and hours  grooming their entire body from head to toe. Our furry friends have mastered the art of self grooming millions of years ago. Cats have tiny spines on their tongues. These are called papillae. This small yet essential part of their body allows them to keep themselves clean and tidy. But let’s begin by exploring why cats self groom?  Is it really important? Let’s try to understand their obsession with grooming. 

Why do cats groom themselves?  

  1. Indispensable part of their life: After giving birth the mother cat licks her newborn babies to remove the amniotic sac and breathes life into them. Even after thoroughly cleaning them up, she continues to do so for weeks in order to provoke urination and defecation, to get rid of any scent, to keep the predators at an arm's distance and to display affection. Kittens slowly start to imitate their mother’s behavior. Gradually, they start to understand the concept of self grooming and allogrooming (social grooming) and it becomes an indispensable part of their life.
  2. Brushing: A cat’s  tongue acts as a natural bristle brush and they use it to detangle their fur. With each lick they are able to make their fur soft and smooth. Their tongue also acts as a flea comb and helps them to get rid of parasites and debris. It also helps them to get rid of food particles around the mouth area, chest and paws after meals.
  3. Helps them to tackle heat:  Cats lick their bodies to cool off. Since cats do not have sweat glands, their saliva helps them to regulate their body temperature.
  4. Natural perfume: Cats have a strong and powerful sense of smell. They groom themselves to get rid of any foreign smell which they might find unappealing. In the process of grooming they coat their body with their own saliva, ensuring that is the persistent smell they receive.
  5. Massage: Cats massage their body with their mouth brush, aka the tongue, to distribute natural oils which their skin produces throughout the body. By doing so our furry friends fulfill two needs with one deed as it also helps them to stimulate blood flow. 
  6. Mutual grooming (allogrooming): Mutual grooming allows cats to strengthen their bond. Cats groom each other as a form of affection. You can consider licking as a form of communication that cats have with each other. At times, it is also used as a sign of dominance by the higher ranking cats as well.
  7. To relax: If cats feel sad, threatened or stressed they will immediately self - groom as a form of coping mechanism. They find solace in self grooming because it helps them to get rid of any negative emotion they are going through or helps them to calm down for at least a short duration of time.

Points to remember

  • When your cat is grooming herself, do not distract, interfere or interrupt her.
  • Under grooming and over grooming - Due to old age your cat may stop to clean herself. At times even young cats can terminate their self cleaning ritual because of arthritis or dental problems. And if your cat starts to over groom herself where in it seems like she is super obsessed with the bald spot or skin lesions it may be time for a visit to the vet 
  • Cats understand the concept of grooming from a very young age because of their mother. However, cats who are taken away from their mothers too early may not know how to properly clean themselves. To encourage grooming behavior start by brushing her daily.

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