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.
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.
When Cat Grooming Becomes Obsessive
However, over-grooming can cause bald patches and skin sores. Cats’ over-grooming is often caused by stress. Generally, cats dislike change of any kind. They tend not to respond well to sudden changes or stress. Events like a new pet or family member, separation anxiety, moving and home remodelling can trigger these behaviours. Since grooming can be a self-soothing mechanism, your cat will want to do it every time she is faced with a conflict.
Physical causes might include ringworm or flea bites. Pain will often lead to over-grooming in the area that hurts. If you notice your cat is keep licking at one area of her body, take him to the vet as soon as possible.
If you and your vet determine that there is no physical cause for your cat’s behaviors, you can improve her state of mind. Be sure your cat feels safe, loved and comfortable in your home. You can provide her some toys to keep her entertained and happy. It’s important to spend plenty of time playing with and loving on her as well. If these measures don’t help after a month or two, a trip to the vet is probably warranted. Your vet may rule out your cat’s health problems and also suggest an anti-anxiety medication for her.