Have you ever wondered why cats are so clean? If so, you’re in the right place! Here are surprising reasons your cat loves to lick—and why there’s more to it than simple grooming.
1. To keep themselves cool
Cats don’t sweat as we do, so licking their fur helps cool them down in hot weather. This works through something called evaporative cooling. As the saliva on your cat’s coat evaporates, your cat’s body temperature is lowered slightly.
2. To remove dirt and dust from their coats
Cats love to feel clean, so for most of their grooming, they’re simply removing any dust or dirt on their coats. Their rough tongues help lift this dirt off, leaving your cat sparkling clean after a good grooming session. Most cats spend between 30-50% of their waking hours cleaning their coats.
3. To spread natural oils throughout their coats
A cat’s skin releases natural oils, which they spread evenly over their coats when they clean themselves. The oils help repel water, keep your cat warm, and of course, give their coats and lovely shine.
4. To distract themselves from a stressful situation
This is known as “displacement behavior.” Some cats will start cleaning themselves when under stress, in an attempt to distract themselves by doing something that makes them feel safe and secure.
5. To remove allergens or irritants
If your cat has something on their fur or skin that is causing an allergic reaction or a localized irritation, they may try to clean it off themselves by grooming. Sometimes, a bath can help wash off irritants, but we recommend seeking veterinary advice if you think that this is the cause of your cat’s excessive grooming.
6. To remove fleas or mites
When a cat is suffering from an infestation of fleas or mites, they may clean themselves in an attempt to remove parasites or to soothe the bites from them. Often, a cat with fleas or mites will look like they’re biting their skin, rather than truly cleaning themselves.
7. To improve circulation
When a cat cleans themselves, the action of their tongue running over their body can improve circulation and encourage higher blood flow to your cat’s skin. You can do the same thing by giving your cat regular grooming sessions with a soft brush!
8. To remove scents from their bodies
Cats have a sensitive sense of smell, so if they have meat juice from their wet food on their face or if they rubbed up against a patch of oil, your cat will want to remove those scents. This is partly a defense mechanism to remove smells that might attract a predator and partly because cats just love being clean!
9. To clean and soothe injuries
Feline saliva contains enzymes. When your cat licks a wound, these enzymes have an antibiotic effect that can speed up healing and help keep wounds clean. It’s always best to keep a close eye on any large wounds, though, and speak to your veterinarian for advice.
10. As a bonding exercise
If you see your cats cleaning each other, it’s a good sign that they’ve formed a strong bond. As cats clean each other’s coats, they transfer pheromones, which can help cats feel safe and secure in their surroundings.