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How Do Cats Clean Themselves?

Updated: August 11, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

You might have noticed that your cat is taking her time when it comes to grooming and cleaning herself and whoever might happen to be around her at those times. If you’re wondering how do cats clean themselves or why that much, you should know that the behavior tells a little bit more about your kitty than just cleaning as we understand it.

Cats don’t clean themselves the way or for the reasons we think they do and for certain they don’t need anything else but their tongue and some saliva. Unlike us, their behavior is not to beautify themselves and their fur, but it has other meanings as well.

How Do Cats Clean Themselves

As we mentioned earlier, cats don’t need shampoos, sponges and other humane accessories for cleaning themselves. They only require saliva and their tongues.

A cat’s tongue performs as a natural brush. The papillae on the cat’s tongue are tiny arrow-like projections which help extract debris like dirt, fleas, food leftovers and loose hair from their coat when they brush themselves.

Saliva acts to soak and damp their fur or skin, just like the shower does for us, humans.

If there’s something stuck deep down in a cat’s fur, she will use her teeth to remove those remains or debris, by nibbling them away.

For the areas where her tongue can’t reach, the cat uses saliva to moisten its forepaws by licking them every once in a while and then she will employ them to clean those other areas too.

One of the most important roles grooming has for cats is aiding the secretion and balanced distribution of the natural oils through their skin and coat.

Other Reasons for Their Grooming

Apart from the normal cleaning purpose, cats often groom themselves and their coat for other reasons as well.

One of them is self preservation, which means that cats – usually in the wild – need to lick themselves to remove any odor that may signal their presence to the prey or other larger predators, so it’s a survival mechanism as well.

Another reason that has nothing to do with cleaning is the control of their body temperature. When a cat licks its fur, it does that as well to make air circulate better through the coat and to the surface of the skin, so they can regulate their temperature.

Sometimes a cat might lick continuously one particular spot on her body because she has a wound there. The saliva on her tongue contains enzymes that help prevent infection, and your cat somehow knows that.

Other times, cats lick themselves because they feel stressed or anxious.

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