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Why Do Cats Lick Themselves? Unraveling the Mysteries of Feline Grooming

Do you ever wonder why cats lick themselves so much? In this blog, we’ll uncover the reasons behind this behavior in simple terms, and how to recognize when it becomes excessive.

From hygiene to emotional expression, we’ll explore the different reasons why cats lick themselves. Join us as we delve into the world of feline grooming and learn more about our furry friends.

The Science of Cat Grooming

Cat grooming isn’t just a habit, but an evolutionarily rooted instinct. Whether they’re wild or domestic, grooming is vital for their survival. 

The cat’s tongue plays an important role in grooming. In contrast to human tongues, cats’ tongues have tiny barbs that face backward. These papillae work like little hooks, allowing the tongue to easily grab onto loose fur, dirt, and parasites from the coat. Their saliva also contains enzymes and antibacterial properties, which help stop infections naturally.

Reasons Why Cats Lick Themselves

Cats are good at grooming, and they spend a lot of their day doing it. But why do they do it so much? It’s not just about staying clean; there are other reasons too, like expressing emotions. Let’s take a closer look at why cats lick themselves and what it means for them:

1. Hygiene and Coat Maintenance

One of the reasons cats groom themselves is to keep their fur clean and healthy. As we mentioned before, their rough tongues remove dirt and loose hair, preventing skin infections and matting. Grooming also helps regulate body temperature by spreading natural oils evenly over the fur to keep it warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Plus, it helps keep them dry in different conditions, which is really important for their health and happiness.

2.  Stress Relief and Comfort

Cats don’t lick themselves just to keep clean, they also do it to feel better when they are stressed. This repetitive grooming action releases happy hormones, called endorphins, which help them feel calm and happy.  

3.  Health Monitoring

When cats feel uncomfortable or have minor injuries, they may lick their fur more to alleviate discomfort and help heal. Licking helps clean wounds and spread antibacterial saliva, which prevents infections. If you notice changes in their grooming, it could mean they need medical help. 

4. Social Bonding

In homes with more than one cat, grooming together makes their friendship stronger. This way they are building trust and showing affection. It also helps them figure out who’s in charge and keeps their group working smoothly. During grooming, they exchange scents, which helps them understand each other and feel like they belong in the group. Also, grooming provides emotional support helping to alleviate tension and strengthen social bonds during stress or conflict.

When Grooming Becomes Excessive

Although grooming is a natural behavior for cats, and important for their health, there are times when it can become excessive, signaling potential underlying issues. In this part, we’re going to talk about when grooming goes from being normal to too much. By understanding the signs and causes of excessive grooming, we can help them feel better and stay healthy.

Identifying Over-Grooming

Making a difference between normal and excessive grooming is important for identifying potential underlying issues. Here are some tips to help make a difference between the two:

  • Frequency and Duration- Normal grooming sessions usually only take a few minutes and happen now and then during the day. But if you see your cat grooming way more than usual, spending a long time licking themselves nonstop, it could be a sign of a problem.
  • Physical Signs- Excessive grooming can cause patchy fur, redness, or even bald spots on the skin. Make sure to check your cat’s coat often for any unusual changes.
  • Behavioral Changes- Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior while they groom. If they seem upset or uncomfortable, like making noise, acting restless, or showing signs of pain, it could mean something’s wrong. 
  • Targeted Areas- Notice where your cat is grooming a lot. Regular grooming usually covers the whole body, but when cats groom too much, they might focus on certain spots, like the belly, legs, or tail.

Potential Causes of Over-Grooming

Excessive grooming in cats can happen for different reasons. It could be because they’re uncomfortable physically or feeling stressed emotionally. Knowing these possible reasons is important so we can figure out what’s really going on. Here are some common causes of cats grooming too much:

  • Allergies- Cats can have allergies to things like pollen, dust, or certain foods. This can make their skin itchy and irritated, so they might lick their fur a lot to try to feel less uncomfortable.
  • Parasites- When cats have fleas, ticks, or mites on them, it can make them feel itchy and irritated. So, they might groom themselves a lot to try to ease the itchiness. It’s important to check your cat for signs of these bugs and treat them quickly to stop them from bothering your cat too much.
  • Pain- Some cats have arthritis, problems with their teeth, or injuries, so they might groom themselves too much to try to feel better. They might focus on the areas that hurt, hoping to ease the pain by grooming them.
  • Stress-  Changes in their environment or daily routine can cause them to feel stressed or anxious. When they groom excessively, it could be their method of coping with this stress, helping them feel more at ease and in charge of their surroundings.
  • Psychological Factors- Cats might groom too much because of psychological reasons, like feeling compulsive or bored. Sometimes, they can even develop obsessive-compulsive disorders where they can’t stop grooming excessively. 

Maintaining a Healthy Grooming Routine 

Keeping your cat healthy involves more than just grooming at home. It’s important to take them to the vet for regular check-ups too. Just like humans, cats can get sick or have health issues. Regular check-ups help the vet catch any problems early before they become serious. This means your cat can get treatment sooner, which is better for their health.

Vets can also give your cat preventive treatments, like vaccines and flea control, to keep them healthy. These treatments can stop problems before they even start, helping your cat stay happy and comfortable.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

A happy cat is a healthy cat, and creating a comfortable environment is key to their well-being. Here are some simple ways to enrich your cat’s environment and reduce stress:

  • Safe Hiding Spots- Cats love having hiding spots where they can hide and feel safe. They can be covered beds, boxes, or elevated perches, where your cat can relax and observe their surroundings.
  • Engaging Toys-  You can keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated with interactive toys, such as wand toys or puzzle feeders.
  • Regular Playtime- Spend quality time playing with your cat every day. These play sessions give your cat physical exercise and make your bond stronger. Give your cat toys that encourage chasing, pouncing, and jumping to keep them busy and entertained.


Keeping your cat clean and creating a comfortable environment is really important for their health. If your cat is grooming too much, it’s good to know why and do things like taking them to the vet and giving them fun toys. This way, you can help your cat stay happy and healthy. Just keep an eye on your cat’s behavior and adapt their care routine to meet their individual needs, making a strong bond and improving their quality of life.

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