Cats sleep an average of 15-20 hours a day. That means they’re only awake for 4-9 hours every day, and they spend up to half of those hours grooming themselves. At a minimum of 2 hours a day, that’s a lot of licking! So why is grooming so important for a cat’s health? And what could it mean if your cat seems to be under- or over-grooming herself? Here’s what you need to know about why grooming is important to your cat.
#1 – It maintains healthy skin
Sebum is an oily secretion produced by a gland at the base of each hair. Licking helps to spread the sebum over the coat, which helps make the fur shiny and waterproof. Licking also helps prevent the cat’s hair from becoming matted, and it can remove loose hair, dirt, and parasites (like fleas).
#2 – It keeps them cool
While humans sweat and dogs pant, cats rely on their saliva evaporating off of their coat to keep them cool when the temperature starts to climb. Keeping their hair nicely groomed and free of tangles also helps air to circulate next to their skin, which helps to keep them cool. In this way, grooming is responsible for about a third of a cat’s overall cooling process.
#3 – Cleanliness keeps predators away
Cats instinctively start to groom themselves immediately after finishing a meal. Why? They don’t want a nearby predator to smell their recent meal and hunt them down. Good grooming can mean the difference between life and death for a cat in the wild.
#4 – It stimulates blood flow
The raspy tongue of a cat helps stimulate blood flow in their skin.
#5 – It’s relaxing
Since a cat’s earliest memories will be of being groomed by its mother, the process of grooming can be very relaxing for a cat. You may find them grooming during stressful situations in an attempt to soothe themselves.
What about a cat who is under-grooming themselves?
A cat that has never properly groomed themselves may have been parted from their mother at such a young age that they hadn’t been taught proper grooming yet. A cat who stops grooming themselves as an adult may be suffering anything from obesity to arthritis to a variety of other health issues. It would be a good idea to take this cat to the vet for a checkup.
What about cats who over-groom themselves?
Since grooming can be a stress-reliever, over-grooming may be related to anxiety and stress. It may also be related to hyperthyroidism or food allergies, so a trip to the vet to rule out these conditions should be in order.