Ask the Vet: Why Do Cats Groom Themselves So Often?

Nov 12, 2021 by

Cat Grooming

Cats are considered one of the cleanest house pets. Their habit of self-grooming helps to keep them prim and proper throughout the day. As such, they require much less grooming and maintenance than dogs. In fact, your feline friends may spend up to half of their time awake taking care of their fur.

There are many reasons cats groom themselves so often, including hygiene, as a coping mechanism and simply because it feels good. Most of the time, licking is a normal part of your cat’s life and is purrfectly fine. However, if their grooming becomes excessive, there are signs you, as an owner, need to be aware of.

Where Does This Habit Come From?

Kittens experience grooming from their mothers at the onset of life. At birth, mother cats lick their litter to remove the amniotic sac and help them produce waste early on. As they grow up, kittens learn to groom themselves and the other kitties in their litter. Feral cats also have the instinct to groom their kittens to hide their scent from predators before they can fend for themselves.

Once a cat has joined your family, it will continue to self-groom to lubricate and brush its coats. The texture of their tongues assists in removing dirt, fleas and other debris. Just like getting a nice massage, cats enjoy the feeling of self-grooming. Being agile and flexible means there is an itch that can’t be scratched. Contrary to their reputation as anti-social, cats are also known to lend a helping tongue to their fellow pets.

When the Grooming Gets Excessive

If your feline friend is excessively and compulsively grooming, there can be a variety of external triggers causing it. Pets experience stress and anxiety as humans do, and they can develop coping mechanisms to deal with difficult situations. Stressors for cats can include sudden changes to their environment. For example, it is a good idea to restrict your cat to one area to start when moving to a new home. The gradual shift will help them adjust.

Kittens removed from their mother and litter too early can also express stress through excessive grooming. Allowing your cat time in a consistent environment often soothes cats, allowing them to feel comfortable at home. Distracting your cat when a stressor is present can also help them learn to react better over time.

When Is It Time to Consult a Vet? 

Overly compulsive grooming can lead to irritation, sores or infection if left unaddressed. If you have already tried identifying your pet’s triggers and have done everything you can to mitigate the issue, it may be time to consult a veterinarian. When the everyday habits of your cats have become maladaptive and begin to cause your furry friend harm, it is necessary to seek professional help.

We know how much you love your pets, which is why Sunset Veterinary Clinic provides premium quality care to restore your cat to its best. We offer expert pet health services, from check-ups to specialized treatments, to make sure your feline family member is feeling fine. Contact us to make an appointment today.

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