Cats have an unwavering reputation for being some of the cleanest pets around. From constantly grooming themselves to avoiding messes like pros, cats seem to always be in top condition. Do you ever wonder how they manage to stay so clean without any help from us pet owners? From their paw-licking techniques to their meticulous litter box habits—read on to learn how cats stay so clean.
CATS ARE MADE TO SELF-GROOM, IMPECCABLY
Unlike some other pets who require regular baths, haircuts, and nail trims, cats are self-groomers who take care of their own cleanliness and hygiene. In fact, regular self-grooming is a vital component of a cat's overall health and well-being. A cat’s tongue is covered in tiny barbs called papillae, which catch onto loose fur, dirt, dander, and loose fur from their coats. This cleans and prevents their hair from matting and tangling, and it also distributes natural oils throughout a cat's fur, leaving it soft and shiny.
CLEANING TAKES A LOT OF TIME
Cats can spend up to half of their waking hours grooming themselves. It’s hard work! They usually lick their paw and then use their paw as a makeshift washcloth to clean their face, head, legs, shoulders, genitals, and even their tails. They don’t just groom themselves–they also groom each other as a form of socialization. Mutual grooming is called allogrooming and it’s a social activity that serves to strengthen the bond between cats. They can also groom their human friends, which is a sign of affection and love.
HOW WE CAN HELP THEM KEEP THEMSELVES CLEAN
While cats don’t need you to wash them, they do need you to maintain a consistent cleaning routine so they can keep themselves clean. A good cleaning routine for a cat owner includes daily litter box maintenance, regular vacuuming and dusting to prevent the buildup of hair and dander, cleaning out their food and water bowls regularly, and disinfecting any surfaces they frequently come in contact with. In addition, providing them with plenty of toys and scratching posts can help redirect their attention away from causing messes.
SIGNS YOUR CAT IS OVER GROOMING
While grooming is perfectly normal and healthy behavior, over-grooming can actually lead to potential health risks for cats. Excessive grooming can result in hairballs, irritated skin, and even infection. Cats who groom themselves compulsively may develop bald patches or even ingest too much fur, causing intestinal blockages. Over-grooming is usually a sign that your cat is stressed, so keep an eye out for bald patches, irritated skin, and signs of intestinal distress, and make sure you are regularly seeing your vet to help catch any potential health issues early on.