Why Do Cats Lick Themselves So Much?

Is it more than just a purr-etty reason?

Why Do Cats Lick Themselves So Much?

 

If we talk about personal hygiene, cats are the epitome of cleanliness. They are naturally equipped with the implements to groom themselves: a barbed tongue with which they lick, forepaws they moisten with saliva and use as a surrogate washcloth, and teeth to dig out tougher debris. Believe it or not, adult cats may spend as much as half of their waking hours grooming themselves, their relatives and friends.

Kittens usually begin grooming themselves when they are about 4 weeks old. At 5 weeks of age, kittens also begin grooming their litter mates, as well as their mom. The cat will then reapply saliva to that paw and, using semi-circular motions, groom behind the corresponding ear, the back of the ear, the forehead and over the eye. When finished with one side, the process is repeated with the other paw on the other side of the head. After the head is clean, the cat grooms the front legs, shoulders, flanks, hind legs, and tail with long strokes of the tongue. The order of body parts may vary, and not all of these areas are necessarily groomed in one sitting.

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Reasons Why Cats Lick Themselves

1. Cats lick themselves to protect themselves against predators

To avoid detection by potentially threatening animals, cats instinctively clean away food and additional odour-causing agents.

2. Cats lick themselves to cool down against heat

Cats sweat a little from their paws, but they mostly rely on saliva evaporation on their fur to keep normal body temperature.

3. Cats lick themselves to keep their wounds clean

Cat saliva is thought to contain enzymes that turn it into a natural antibiotic. It can guard against wound infections.

4. Cats lick themselves to stimulate blood flow

Cat’s tongue which is covered in tiny, bristle-like hairs improves circulation, just like how a hairbrush promotes blood flow on the scalp.

5. Cats might lick themselves for relaxation

Cats take comfort in the ritual of self-cleaning.

Updated: September 27, 2017.

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