Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why does my cat groom so much?

Why does my cat groom so much? Of course, he's grooming his coat. You might think that the obvious answer is that he's cleaning himself and that is the only reason why he does it. That is one reason but not the only reason. Not only is he cleaning away dust and dirt when he licks his coat he is also making his coat into a more efficient insulating layer. This keeps him warmer when required.

Cats do not have sweat glands. As you know sweat evaporates and cools us down. Instead of sweat, in warm weather, the cat will groom himself so that his saliva evaporates on his fur thereby cooling him down.

In addition, when a cat is lying in sunlight, vitamin D is produced on his hair.  A cat will lick off and ingest this vitamin D, an essential vitamin.

When we are agitated sometimes we scratch our head or bite our fingernails. Instead of this, a cat might lick his coat or his nose. A cat will feel better when he does it and it is called displacement activity.

You will notice that when we stroke our cat or handle our cat in anyway, he will often, shortly thereafter, groom himself. One reason for this is to smooth down the fur,  another reason is that he is tasting your scent that you deposited on his coat.  In addition he is removing your scent and letting his scent take its place. A cat prefers to have his fragrance on himself rather than our scent.

In addition to the above, in grooming himself, a cat will stimulate his skin glands at the base of individual hairs. The secretions from these glands help to keep his coat waterproof.

Sometimes, very rarely, a domestic cat will groom too much and this might be because he is stressed and he is using grooming to calm himself down. When a cat does this you will tend to see bald spots in his coat and usually in areas which are easily accessible such as the belly.

Finally, you will see domestic cats grooming each other. This is an act of friendship as we would expect it to be. The domestic cat has become quite social in his or her domestication and the concept that the domestic cat is a solitary animal is no longer true.

When a cat grooms another cat it is called allogrooming.  When a domestic cat grooms himself it is called autogrooming. You will notice that the domestic cat follows a set procedure when he grooms himself. And the domestic cat will groom  routinely at certain times (for example after eating) and in certain places (for example in a favourite chair after eating or against you when you are in bed).

A cat will nibble at his claws to remove any loose keratin and when he grooms around the eyes and ears he will deposit saliva on his paws and then use that to wash himself. I'm sure that you are familiar with this. I hope this helps.

1 comment:

Michael Broad LLB, ARPS said...

Thanks Kylee. Cat grooming goes well beyond cleaning. This is why the domestic cat grooms a hell of a lot.

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