Why does my cat groom so much?

Grooming is advantageous to the domestic cat in a number of ways. It is important to the cat. That is why they groom a lot. Over-grooming should be investigated though.

Cats groom themselves for up to a third of their waking hours. They will groom several times in a day. Bearing in mind that a cat is asleep for about 14 hours per day, after grooming they have about 6 hours to do something other than snooze, sleep and wash themselves. It’s a tough life.

Why does my cat groom so much

Oriental Shorthair (OSH) cats. The one on the right has a squint which is typical of the Siamese. The OSH is related to the Siamese.

Health

Obviously grooming cleans the fur. The spinny tongue with keratin spikes combs the fur and removes dead hair and debris. Keratin is the same substance that makes claws.

The tongue can also scratch the skin as we scratch our skin if it itches a bit. Persistent licking to alleviate an itch needs to be investigated as there might be an health problem such as flea or food allergy, to mention two. An allergy caused by something in the air such as house dust can lead to excessive licking causing hair loss symmetrically down the back. Ringworm also irritates causing excessive grooming in the area. The grooming process is part of the life cycle of the tapeworm, interestingly.

When cats groom a particular area more than normal it is sensible to inspect that area. For example a sign of an anal or rectal disease is repeatedly licking at the rear. Inflammation of the skin around the anus for a number of reasons can lead a cat to lick there exacerbating the problem. Anal sac infections can also cause a cat to lick in that area more than usual.

A mother cat licking at her breasts may be due to caked breasts. This is an accumulation of milk in the mammary glands during lactation.

Painful urination caused by urinary tract disease may lead to licking in the urogenital area.

Cat's Tongue showing keratin spikes

Cat’s Tongue showing keratin spikes. Photo by Malingering (Flickr).

Temperature Control

The saliva deposited on fur evaporates and cools acting like perspiration. The science behind this effect is called the latent heat of evaporation or the latent heat of vaporization. When grooming themselves cats sometimes tug on the fur to stimulate glands in the skin that release an oil to keep the fur waterproofed. Licking the fur also keeps it smooth making it a better insulator. There is a substantial element of temperature control in the grooming process.

Methods

Cats tend to follow a routine when grooming themselves. By routine I mean starting and finishing at the same places and grooming in an organised way. Suppleness is required to groom properly. Some parts of the body are very hard to get to. This is a good reason why cats should not be overweight. Obesity prevents a cat getting to those difficult parts.

Geriatric cats cannot groom properly and their fur can look unkempt and become matted. That is when we step in.

Anxiety

Overgrooming is due to anxiety it is thought. Grooming also serves the purpose of feeling good. It is a pleasant thing for a cat to do. Perhaps “pleasant” is the wrong word. It is reassuring for a cat to groom. If she is feeling anxious about something, grooming helps. This can lead to hair loss and the hair loss is usually from the areas of the body that are easiest to get to, namely, the rump and hind legs. All the fur is ingested and passed as feces. Sometimes it is thrown up as a hair ball. Rarely it can form a blockage in the gut.

Long Fur

Female cats and male cats groom for the same time. There is obviously variation between individual cats. Cats with very long fur, usually cats belonging to a cat breed (i.e. purebred pedigree cats) such as the contemporary Persian, are unable to groom themselves to a sufficient standard to maintain the fur in proper condition. People have to assist. This is one reason why extreme breeding is wrong.

The Devil

An aspect of cat grooming that upsets some people is the fact that a cat grooms her bottom. Some people still make a connection with this and the devil. The ancient connection between witchcraft and cats lingers on.


Comments

Why does my cat groom so much? — 12 Comments

  1. So a cat is in league with the devil because she cleans her bottom? That’s a very old way of thinking– I don’t believe anyone would make that connection today. It goes back to the Middle Ages. Martin Luther, when he was a monk, was taught that when defecating man is farthest from God and closest to the devil. The monks would try to complete that task as quickly as possible, for fear of the devil. Luther had frequent constipation that plagued him the rest of his life, not surprisingly. Perhaps it was idiotic thinking like this that caused him to begin to question the teachings of the Catholic Church at the time. That and actually reading the Bible for himself and discovering a God of love, who would never place such horrible burdens on men, but instead came to bear all their burdens to the cross. How sad that those who ostensibly believed in Jesus must have believed Christ was actually powerless to help them, since fear of the devil caused them to hate and fear innocent, beautiful creatures. The church had its role to play in all these superstitions, because the more people were afraid and unsure, the more money could be extorted from them. If people were not sure of their salvation or the forgiveness won for them in Christ, then how could they be sure of protection from evil spirits? Their god wasn’t powerful enough to save them without contributions of their own meritorious works and payments of indulgences, so why should they trust that god for much of anything? There are tales of Luther experiencing all manner of what we would call poltergeist activity in his home later in life and during the times while he was translating the Bible into German. He would just ignore it and go to bed. So while others in his day were seeing the devil everywhere and causing all kinds of suffering on account of this, Luther experienced what was probably real demonic activity and was not afraid. So often the Christian religion is blamed for many horrible things and wrong beliefs, but these are distortions. Thank God for men like Luther who stood up against those abuses. When he read the truth for himself, he gained courage and peace and left behind fearful superstition.

    Today there are many, many tv shows featuring hauntings, and it is surprising the people who will admit to having these experiences. People in every age come to grips with the fact that there is more about this universe than we will ever understand. But those who deal with that reality through the love of Christ, who stand in His strength alone, are going to treat people and animals well, with compassion and pity, instead of doing harm in fear. Perfect love drives out fear.

    • what on EARTH does Martin Luther and his beliefs and teachings have to do with ANYTHING regarding a cats affection toward its owner and the time and frequency of its grooming. Your platform of preaching is in the wrong venue!

      • I think you are wrong. There is a connection with religion and a cat grooming his bottom. There is a quite a connection between cats, dogs and other animals and religion.

        For example dogs are seen as unclean by Muslims.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Incredible close-up picture of the cat’s tongue. Until now I didn’t know that the spikes were made from the same stuff that their claws were made from.

    I was surprised to read that some people associate a cat’s butt licking with some sort of connection with the devil. I guess I’ll have to chalk that up to yet another ignorant, primitive paranoid wives’ tale. *rolls eyes*

    When ever I have a cat with long hair, I brush them often. I’m always worried that they’ll get intestinal blockage. They love being brushed anyhow and making them happy makes me feel good. Besides, it cuts way back on the hairball messes.

    Excessive grooming would concern me. As you mentioned, it could be anxiety or one of several skin conditions. It could also be a wound or something undesirable just beneath the surface.

    I keep a close eye on my cats every day. Some of it has to do with making sure they don’t fall out of their routine. That could be a sign that something is wrong. With a multiple cat household it seems like I’m taking one of them to the vet about every 3 or 4 months either for something routine or because something is wrong.

    Hairless cats can get dry skin. I keep a close eye on that one and am ready with my coconut oil. It’s a great moisturizer. I use it even more during the winter months.

    Sometimes when I rescue a cat, they have fleas or dried out skin. That requires treatment – flea baths, flea bombs, isolation. It can take a little while to get rid of all the fleas. They also tend to have scratches from itchy flea skin that need to be healed.

    I’ve had cats with food allergies before. In addition to causing havoc to the intestines, it really makes a cat’s skin itchy. Usually it’s caused by food allergies. Time to switch foods.

    Old cats and obese cats do seem to need some extra help with brushing. They sometimes even need an occasional bath.

    I agree that extreme breeding is often harmful to the breed. Lots of problems arise. A stray or feral Persian would have a lot of difficulty. The fur would be in bad shape within a few months. So sad.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

    • Liz, do hairless cats groom as much as cats with fur? Linking the devil to a cat licking her bottom is definitely a bit of human madness. But we know there is quite a bit around.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Yes, they groom themselves daily and I groom them weekly.

    Not sure how much more or how much less than a cat with hair, but it seems to be about the same.

    My hairless cats have peach fuzz but they’d probably groom (bathe) themselves daily even if they were rubber balds.

    Yes, too much human madness. I often times wonder if I got dropped off on the wrong planet. Physical existence is madness – too much suffering.

    I get so frustrated with human madness every day that I want to cry. I often wonder what kind of demons and idiots are these people? Why do I have to be subjected to it?

    By the way, I got my two Sphynx from a person that breeds a lot of different animals including horses.

    I had to drive way out in the country to a farm to get them. This lady had several buildings with many different animals in each.

    The two that adopted me were considered flawed and unwanted. By the way this person was talking, I was afraid the two would be put down. So, I brought them home with me. I’m not into purposefully seeking purebreds. I’m a moogie person. These two just needed to be saved and kind of landed in my lap.

    The “Asian” (Oriental) Shorthair I have may or may not be a purebred. The MCs I used to have may or may not have been purebreds. They were all rescue cats. I’m also unsure about the Siamese I had a long time ago. I rescued him too and he was my very first cat.

    I don’t like to encourage breeders to experiment and create extreme breeds. Too many health issues and the kitten mortality rate is too high. I am especially against breeding using recessive genes. There are other issues such as the ones you’ve pointed out that I agree with such as Persians being unable to properly groom themselves should they become a stray and so on.

    I don’t want any misunderstanding as to why I have hairless cats. That’s all :)

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

    PS. If you want a good monkey breed but don’t want to go quite as far as hairless, consider a cat that is part Oriental Shorthair. They have very short hair and whippy tails. You might also consider a Cornish Rex.

    • I realise you are a damn good cat caretaker. It is interesting that Sphynx cats groom as much as haired cats. I would expect that but the need to do it is not quite so pressing as their the fur is so fine and thin. All the reasons about keeping the fur in good shape etc. don’t seem to apply so much. Also the cooling effect of saliva on fur would seem to be much less efficient. Perhaps not as the saliva must be deposited on the skin as well as the fuzz. It seems that cats are programmed to do it whether there is a need or not.

  4. Wow the Devil and the cleaning of the bottom. Incredible. If they whipped out a bar of soap and used some water and a flannel, just for the bottom, perhaps they would no long be associated with the Devil, but infact God – since the 2 are so closely related. It’s terrible really. But wherever you have God, you have fear of God and the Devil. What is most ironic is the whole forgiveness thing. Not that they apparently forgave cats for cleaning their bottoms at any point, but it’s rather ironic that you can do terrible things and then be forgiven, and in some cases that involves saying a few words over and over again. As long as you accept that the church or your priest decides when you are forgiven all you have to do is go there and say sorry and he will let you know how many times to repeat those words to be forgiven. Doesn’t sound like a very good process. Personally I think some things are unforgiveable and I don’t trust any large organisation that gets paid to forgive. Anyhoo, thats a bit of a tangent – the fact is that those people who associate the cats with the devil also probably associate themselves in terms of god and the devil so I guess the reason that the superstition does still exist around the cat that means there are still people who think of things in terms of god and the devil and all the other devilish things that god apparently doesnt like, such as witches – or something ike that. Hopefully the whole thing will eventually just fade away and people will be able to forgive themselves and adopt cats without being concerned about god or the devil.

  5. Forgiveness comes only through the innocent suffering of Christ. Forgiveness is not cheap though my denomination has been accused, rightly so, of believing in cheap grace. That’s why I prefer a crucifix to a cross. That’s where it’s at for us– all of God that there is suffered there in human form, suffered the penalty for man’s depravity. For my depravity. Because not just some things are unforgivable, all evil acts are unforgivable. There had to be justice, we know intuitively that the universe demands that. I believe that justice was served through Christ.
    Forgiving myself means nothing. I can’t forgive myself for any of the horrible things I’ve done, and even if I could, adding that to God’s forgiveness would be like shining a flashlight at the sun to add more light. Any forgiveness that comes from the church comes from the authority of Jesus Christ– it is not men forgiving men, it is men speaking the forgiveness already won for men.
    If I did not believe that God in Jesus redeemed me I would have killed myself a long time ago and by my human thinking it would have been a good thing, a noble act even. Humans have screwed up this planet and done so much harm that it is certainly true that the earth would be better off without any of us. But I trust that God in His loving wisdom has a reason for allowing us to continue to exist, even trying to win us back to Him. My human reason cannot perceive what that reason would be. It’s a love I can’t understand.
    I love Monty because we have the same Heavenly Father, who ordained that we would be together long before either of us was born. I do my best to care for Monty, not because I own him or because his presence in my home gives me pleasure, but because he is my responsibility. A responsibility given to me by the Creator of us both, who owns us both. Monty gives me a reason to keep living this life of sin in this body of death, because He reminds me that love, Divine Love, really must exist. It’s just hidden pretty well most of the time. But Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” He also said, “But fear not, for I have overcome this world.” Faith is belief in something you can’t see, but I think God gives us what we need, the little proofs we need, to keep going. Monty has been that for me. And I think it’s really cute when he cleans his bottom.

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