Autogrooming describes behavior that you see a lot if you are a cat guardian. It means the grooming (licking) of a cat by the cat themselves. The alternative word is ‘allogrooming’ which you might know means one cat grooming another. Allogrooming is often mutual and a kitten experiences it almost from birth when their mother licks and cleans them.
This is feline autogrooming
When autogrooming is carried out beyond its purpose of keeping the coat in good condition it is overgrooming, the cause of which is probably stress or an itchy skin due to perhaps an allergy e.g. flea bite allergy. Autogrooming is a pleasant experience so if a cat is stressed for any reason grooming themselves helps to alleviate it.
Domestic cats are fastidious and committed autogroomers as we all know. If there are three activities that the cat is known for it is (1) autogrooming (2) snoozing and (3) hunting.
Cats follow a set procedure when grooming themselves. It is autogrooming which is at the root cause of people’s allergy to cats. Those of you who are sensitive to the cat allergen Fel D1 might know that it is present in the cat’s saliva which is deposited on their fur where it dries and flies off into the room to spread the allergen far and wide.
Autogrooming can help to cool cats as some of their saliva evaporates. This initiates the cooling process that we feel when perspiration evaporates on our skin. Cats cannot benefit from the evaporation of perspiration (except on their paw pads) so cooling from saliva helps.
The reason why cats lick themselves after you stroke or pet them on their flanks or back is because it stimulates their desire to autogroom as they perceive your stroking as grooming.
SOME MORE ON CATS GROOMING THEMSELVES AND OTHERS: