When Should I Be Concerned
Sometimes, however, excessive grooming behavior in particular areas of the body can be a sign of a medical problem, such as fleas, allergies, infections, anal gland impaction, skin disease, pain, etc. A visit to the veterinarian is in order to rule these problems out, as in some cases, it can be a tip-off that something is seriously wrong. For example, if a male cat sits on his hindquarters in similar fashion to a bear and directs a lot of licking behavior toward his penis, this may be a sign that he has a urinary blockage, which can be a fatal condition in male cats. A cat who cannot urinate can become really sick and die, so this behavior warrants an immediate call to your veterinarian and a visit to the emergency clinic if your local veterinarian is unavailable. Cats with bladder infections also may lick excessively around the genital area due to irritation from the infection.
So keep in mind that though regular grooming is normal for cats, excessive grooming especially if this is a sudden change from your cats normal behavior or if he seems to be focusing on a particular area deserves investigation. If you have a concern, a call or visit to your veterinarian may be in order. Otherwise, it might just be that your favorite feline simply enjoys washing his whiskers!
More on Vetstreet:
Is It Good For Cats To Groom Each Other
In a nutshell, yes. Cats groom each other as part of their social behavior towards each other. Cats generally groom each other to show that they are accepted within a group.
However, there may be instances when grooming is used as a sign to show dominance within a group. It may also be a sign of pent-up aggression in one cat that prevents him from developing a more aggressive behavior towards another one within the same group. In this case, it stops infighting among cats within a given colony.
Why Does My Cat Groom So Much
Why Does My Cat Groom So Much? The cause for over-grooming may be behavioral or medical. Behavioral over-grooming, otherwise known as psychogenic alopecia, is a form of stress-relief for many cats. Medical causes that may lead a cat to over-groom are usually those that make the cat feel itchy. One of the most common causes is an allergy.
Cats are flexible, strategic, and well-equipped for grooming. Everything from the rough surface of a cats tongue to her sharp teeth, comb-like paws, and forepaws add up to a finely tuned grooming machine. A cat can even use her front paws to stimulate tiny oil glands on her head. The oil is a cats Perfume and is spread all over the body. Does your cat seem to be licking, biting, or nibbling herself incessantly? Keep in mind that most cats spend between 30 and 50 percent of their day grooming themselves. Stress often causes cats to develop compulsive disorders like excessive grooming early in life. Regular self-grooming will help your cat look good and feel good, but if she becomes ill, she may stop cleaning herself. To encourage your cat to begin grooming, start by brushing her daily.
How do I know if my cat is grooming too much? Grooming when its no longer functional or when it interrupts your cats other activities. Over-zealous scratching. Redness, rashes, pus or scabs on bald areas. Irritability or discomfort when scratching.
Don’t Miss: Cats Resting Heart Rate
A Little Bit About Cats Grooming
Cats start grooming themselves at the age of 4 weeks. First, they will start grooming themselves and then they will start licking their mother and other littermates. This mutual-grooming and self-grooming continues into adulthood.
Felines are naturally equipped with all the grooming tools they need. From rough surfaces of a cats tongue to her sharp teeth, they use it all. A cat can even use his forepaw to stimulate tiny oil glands on her head. This will help spread the oil, also known as a cats perfume all over the body.
Theyre Showing You Affection
Social grooming by licking is an important affectionate behavior in cats, and licking can be a sign of affection between cats and between a cat and a human, Maxwell says.
She adds that licking is often a sign that a cat is calm. But because anxiety can also be a cause for licking, its important to pay close attention to the context surrounding the behavior and other notable things in your cats environment.
Recommended Reading: What Temps Can Cats Tolerate
Washing Up After Meals
Have you ever noticed that your cat will immediately start licking themselves after a meal? Even though house cats arent living in the wild, they still have some of the same survival instincts. This includes eluding predators by removing any trace of the prey theyve consumed. Hartstein notes that, Theyre predators and prey, so it also has a function when they actually kill a mouse or a birdto groom themselves to either not smell like the other animal, or to return to their own smell so that others in their colony or family can recognize them. So it acts as prey/predator protection, which is a really critical role in their survival. The next time your domestic feline finishes up her dinner, shell more than likely clean up by licking her paws and running them over her face and head.
How To Get Your Cat To Stop Licking You
For a behavior thats often about love and emotional closeness, its tricky to tell your cat to stop without jeopardizing your relationship.
Koski says some people will attempt to prevent the behavior altogether by applying something that tastes bad to cats to their own skin. The idea is that the cat wont like the taste and wont lick you in the future. She says it can have an undesired effect, however, and the cat may begin to associate the unpleasant experience with you in a more general way, which can be problematic. The same holds true for any type of punishment that you might dole out in response to licking.
If you feel like your cat is licking you excessively, the best thing you can do is redirect her actions, Koski says. I have a cat who loves snuggling with me and licking my face. What I’ll typically do is simply move my face away from him and either offer my head to nuzzle against or I will pet him so that he just enjoys the petting and stops licking.
If that doesnt work, Koski recommends simply walking away when licking becomes excessive, which causes the cat to associate licking you with you disappearing. With time and consistency, your cat should learn that you are a lick-free zone.
Read Also: Is Christmas Tree Water Bad For Cats
Why Do Cats Lick Each Other
If you have a multi-feline household, then youve most likely seen cats cleaning each other. According to Hartstein, Cats dont see as well as they smell, so its a group scent or scenting component. This is really important between kittens and cats where theyre part of a colony or each others familythats how they recognize one another, and so they become identifiable, rather than visually. So when cats groom other cats, theyre solidifying their membership in their colony or family unit.
Aside from identification, cats groom each other as a bonding experience. They groom one another, and they groom their kittens. Its a way of connecting with others. That includes family and friends, and its a way of displacing stress and saying, I come in peace, says Hartstein. Mother cats will also lick their kittens to clean them, stimulate elimination and also teach them how to groom.
When To Be Concerned About Kitty Licking
Overgrooming: If your kitty is licking herself bald or pulling out chunks of hair, you might have an overgroomer on your hands. There are many reasons cats overgroom and most relate to a physical or emotional issue. These include fleas, allergies, stress, boredom, and pain so if your cat is overgrooming, get her to a vet so you can get her, and her luxurious coat, back to their shining selves.
Obsessive licking of non-food things: Sometimes cats lick things other than themselves, from plastic bags to walls. Usually, this isnt an issue and just one of the ways curious cats explore their environment by sensein this case, taste. If the behaviors youre seeing seem like more than the occasional taste test, talk to your vet. Cats that chew or lick obsessively can have underlying medical or emotional conditions, such as pica, that may need your attention.
Licking you: If cat is licking you here and there, dont worry. Its a sign of affection. Or perhaps, your kitty just really likes your lotion or the salt on your skin. In the case that your cat is attracted to lotion or perfume, you will want to stop this behavior. Many perfumes and lotions contain essential oils that are toxic to kittiesits not likely youll be wearing a toxic load but better to be safe than sorry.
You May Like: Blue Buffalo Carnivora Woodland Cat Food
Grooming Implement #: The Teeth
Cats use their tiny front teeth to remove fleas and ticks, work mats out of their fur, and remove plant material stuck deeper in their fur than their tongues can reach. They chew on their claws with their back teeth to remove worn claw husks and replace them with sharp, new daggers.
Now, moving on to the why, here are some of the reasons why cats groom themselves.
Cats Clean Themselves For Relaxation
Cats take comfort in the ritual of self-cleaning. Remember, certain qualities indicate a healthy coat of fur, including:
- Shine and a soft, lush texture
- Little dander
- No black specks, which can be a sign of fleas
- No bald patches
- Not a lot of dead undercoat, since your cat normally removes it
To promote these qualities, feed your cat food that contains quality natural ingredients, essential nutrients and amino acids. Visit your veterinarian twice a year to stay ahead of common problems, and establish a daily brushing routine with your cat. Both cats and owners should look forward to this productive time together, says Dr. Jane Brunt, a veterinarian at the Cat Hospital at Towson, in Baltimore.
You May Like: Blue Buffalo Meaty Morsels Cat Food
Its All About Coat Appeal
The most obvious reason why cats lick themselves is for cleanliness. And the easiest way to stay clean is for cats to take care of it with their own tongue. Its like a built-in brush with tiny spines that are angled backward toward the kittys mouth. With this handy tool, cats can rake through their fur, making it shiny and dander-free. Hartstein explains that, Cats groom themselves for their general coat condition to remove dander and loose hairs, and to spread sebum, which also gives them a nice, beautiful coat as they spread the oils around their fur. The tongue can also comb out fleas that have made a home in your cats coat. As a nice side benefit, licking the coat helps promote circulation and natural blood flow.
To Hide Scent From Predators
Cats’ sense of smell is fourteen times more powerful than that of humans. Most predators, including cats, track prey through scent. A mother cat in the wild will try to hide her young kittens by removing evidence of their feeding. She will wash herself and them thoroughly after nursing. For the same reason, cats will bury uneaten dead prey in the wild. You may observe that same instinctual behavior when you see a cat scratching at the floor around the food dish after eating.
You May Like: What Is A Cat’s Normal Heart Rate
Be Patient With Your Cat
Finally, the most important part of managing overgrooming is to be patient.
If you see your cat licking excessively, dont punish her or try to interfere. This will only add to your cats stress and make her overgrooming problem worse.
After youve sought help from your vet, it may take a month or so for an overgrooming behavior to resolve, and even longer for your cats fur to grow back.
Why Do Cats Groom
Cats groom themselves not only to keep clean, but for several other health reasons:
- To regulate body temperature
- To keep her coat clean and smooth by distributing natural skin oils
- To stimulate circulation
- To cool herself down through evaporation of saliva
- To eliminate parasites, infection, and allergies
- To prevent hairballs
- Displacement behavior: If your cat feels embarrassed, anxious, or as though shes in a conflict, she may lick to calm herself.
How To Discourage A Cat Licking You
Whilst most of us enjoy the occasional lick from our cats, it can become too much if your cat does it all the time. Many cat owners want to discourage their cats from licking them without pushing them away or making them feel as if they are not wanted or appreciated.
To avoid making your cat feel like this, distraction is the best way to encourage a cat to stop licking you. The first method of distraction we recommend is playing with your cat. This will still make your cat feel as if you want them because you are interacting with them and spending time with them. Cat toys such as wands and balls make for a great distraction.
Another distraction technique you could use is food. Distracting your cat with a tasty treat is a great way to encourage them to stop licking you. We do however recommend trying to play with them first, as too many treats arent good for their health they should always be part of their daily food allowance. It could also teach your cat that licking you means they will get a treat, which will only encourage them to lick you more!
Cats Are Fastidious Animals And They Groom Themselves Several Times A Day
Even though each species has its own distinct looks and characteristics. Find out why following some widely held beliefs can harm your cat. As with any injury, there are so many variables involved. Learn more with about this behavior. Every item on this page was chosen by a woman’s day editor. Both have provided services and companionship to humans for many centuries. What leads to this behavior, and how does it help your cat? Quite a few pet owners choose cats over dogs because cats are so clean. and it’s true: If you spend a lot of time online, chances are you’ve heard of reddit. Learn everything about cats at howstuffworks. I think it’s pretty obvious who’s the winner here. Dogs and cats are from different species of animals, appealing to different types of people. Cats are carnivorous mammals from the family felidae that can range greatly in size and color.
Discover why following some widely held beliefs ca. Learn how to take care of cats, from everyda. Learn more with about this behavior. Both have provided services and companionship to humans for many centuries. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
Don’t Miss: Stop Cat Fighting
Why Do Cats Lick And Groom Each Other And Then Bite
Mutual grooming between cats may be their way of showing acceptance with each other. At times, it can be a sign of affection.
It can also be a diversion meant to stop one cat from showing antagonistic behavior towards another. However, there may be times when one cat has had enough.
Even too much social interaction can be tiring at times and when one cat has had enough, this may result in a display of inter-cat aggression, also known as a catfight.
This shouldnt be mistaken, however, for aggressive play fights which cats engage in as part of their bonding activities with each other.
Cats can be pretty rowdy when they play and this kind of rough play is oftentimes mistaken as fighting.
Take a look at this video:
When Cat Grooming Becomes Obsessive
Grooming to excess can become an obsessive-compulsive behavior which can lead to bald patches and skin sores.
Cats’ over-grooming is often caused by stress and may be likened to humans’ habit of biting their nails to the quick. Cats, in general, intensely dislike change of any kind. A new baby, a death in the family, even the rearranging of furniture, could be the trigger for this obsessive grooming. Physical causes might include flea bites or ringworm, so it is necessary to rule those out before diagnosing a stress response.
Cats who were taken away from their mothers at a very early age were not allowed the normal weaning period, and will often self-groom by licking or sucking. This behavior will usually lessen and disappear over time when the kitten is kept in a safe and predictable environment.
Read Also: Is Blue Buffalo Good Cat Food
How Much Grooming Is Too Much
Theres normal grooming, and theres such a thing as over-grooming. If your cat is licking a lot more than normal, or seems to be licking and biting a certain spot, this is a sign that there is an issue. The first thing to do is to check their fur and skin for any bites, sores, wounds or red areas. Its a good idea to go to the veterinarian if you notice excessive grooming so that you can rule out a medical issue like allergies or an illness that isnt as apparent.
Once youve determined that its not a health issue, then you can look into displacement behavior, which is a stress coping mechanism. Hartstein points out that displacement grooming is a valuable outlet for dealing with stressmuch like a person would tap their foot or bite their fingernails. But he cautions that its a red flag that shouldnt be ignored when grooming becomes excessive, especially if theres hair loss. Between 30-50% of a cats day is grooming, so when the cat is awake, if you notice that it gets up to 80% and that seems to be all your cat is doing, that would raise a flag. Many different things could be the cause of stress, including boredom from lack of enrichment, house guests, a new partner or baby, a holiday party, moving, new smells, seeing a cat or bird outside, moving the cat litter box or any change in the household. Take note of any changes in your cats grooming frequency so that you can address issues as soon as possible.