Why Do Cats Lick and Groom Themselves?

Cats are known for licking and cleaning themselves. Sometimes a cat licks excessively; sometimes a cat almost does not lick anymore. Why do cats lick and groom themselves?

When it comes to personal hygiene, cats are the example of cleanliness. Cats are equipped with the necessities to take care of themselves: a tongue with ridges to lick, front legs that they moisten with saliva and use teeth to clean deeper spots. Licking is a social activity that serves to strengthen the bond between cats.

In this blog, it is about the licking behavior of the cat. How does this behavior develop, what is the function, under which circumstances are it showed and when is licking a deviant behavior by your cat?

Mother cat and kittens

Adult cat

A mother cat licks her kittens. Right after birth, she starts to stimulate breathing. The first few days after birth she mainly licks the kittens to stimulating the functioning of the urinary tract and intestines.
This stimulation of the urinary tract and intestines is necessary because the kittens are not walking around and therefore can not go to the litter box themselves. With this way, the mother cat ensures that the litter stays clean and her kittens remain in good health. Also, the fur of the kittens will stay more beautiful. Soon the kittens develop licking, and they can keep themselves clean. Already in the second week of life, the kittens begin to lick their front paw. After a few days, this is following by licking the whole body. Of course, this does not happen as well as with an adult cat. That is why the mother cat also regularly licks her kittens.

The onset of grooming

There are cats with all kinds of fur, such as long-haired and short-haired species. Usually, a cat has three types of hair. The coat protects the cat from fluctuations in temperature. A cat is a clean animal, and it is very busy with the fur. Next, to cleaning, there are also many reasons that a cat cares for its hair, for example, scent marking and the prevention of parasites. Cats spend much time at caring for the fur, and they do this quite extensively. They do not just clean their hair to look beautiful.
Cats take care of their fur to protect themselves from the weather, smell marking and parasites. By separating each hair and smoothing it, the insulation of the coat improves. The heat and cold are also keeping at a distance by the coat.  Also, licking can even reduce static electricity. This licking behavior is why some cats lick themselves for a thunderstorm. When a cat washes, it also spreads the oils from the skin through the fur, making the coat watertight. By washing the coat, a cat divides its scent all over its body. A cat is very focused on a smell. Smell is so important to a cat that it often licks itself just after it has been stroking. This cat does not only to restore its smell, but also to absorb the scent of the owner. It is not the only way to leave a scent. A cat leaves its scent with its claws. He does this by placing his claws on a piece of wood, scratching post or furniture. As a result, he not only keeps his nails sharp but also keeps the discharge from the glands in his legs behind on the object that he likes.

Licking patterns
Why do cats lick and groom themselves?

If you ‘ve ever seen or paid for your cat when it’ s cleaning, you probably have some things noticed. Probably it has also been noticed that this is the stereotypical way the cat does it. First, saliva is applied to the inside of the paw. Then with an upward circular movement with the leg from front to back rubbed along the nose. When one side is done, the process is repeating by the other leg on the other side of the head.
After the head is cleaning, the cat cleans the front legs, shoulders, flanks, anogenital area, hind legs, and tail with long strokes of the tongue. The order in which the body parts are cleaning can vary. It is not that the cat immediately cleans all parts of the body at once, it can take a while before your cat continues to clean itself.

Problematic grooming

Grooming has hygienic benefits. It helps eliminate parasites, keep the coat clean and smooth, cool the cat down through evaporation of saliva, and stimulate glands attached to hair roots that secrete substances to keep hair water-proofed. Grooming can also have psychological benefits. A cat may groom to temporarily reduce conflict, frustration, or anxiety. Serotonin a “happiness hormone,” is released by licking. In situations where cats experience stress, the cat will lick itself to feel comfortable again, to reassure itself. A cat can also give a quick lick about, for example, a paw. In this way, the cat also comforts itself and has a reflection period for its behavior. Cats who form a social group greet each other by licking each other. These cats also lick each other to help each other in keeping the coat clean.

Extremely licking

A cat can lick excessively or almost no longer lick. As with any behavioral change, it is also important here to exclude a medical cause for the behavior. Apart from various parasites, allergies and liver or kidney diseases can cause a cat to lick excessively. A cat that has pain in a body part will lick a lot there. Do not just think of the cat with the painful leg, but also the cat with bladder inflammation that licks his stomach. A sick cat can also stop licking. Very important to first have the cat examined by the vet.

By stress, a cat can lick excessively or not lick anymore. Every cat is different. A cat can experience stress by, for example, the arrival of a new cat in the house and thereby lick himself frequently. In a large group of cats, another cat will no longer be able to find the peace to lick themselves. This cat can be helped by offering him a safe place where he can withdraw. A box can give peace. A cat can also lick excessively out of boredom or because he has learned that this gives him attention from the owner.

cat licks another cat

What does it mean if my cat grooms me?

Cats are social animals. Many cats lick their owner, and often people wonder why the cat does this. If you look at how cats behave with each other and what cat licking is tolerating or not, then you might think that the cat does indeed maintain the relationship with its owner by licking. They lick people as a token of affection and trust. This kind of licking is the way they would lick nest-mates or their mother. They can also lick to taste every substance on your skin, such as salt.
Only cats from a social group lick each other. However, even after aggression can be slicked, probably from a gesture to make up for it again.
No clear answer can be given as why a cat licks the owner. There is insufficient research done on this.

Should you groom your cat?

Should I groom my cat? That is a question that is often asking and where different answers can give. A cat can take care of itself and keep it clean, but sometimes you have to help. There are things you can do to make sure your cat stays healthy. There are different types of care. It is essential to keep in mind that every cat is different and that one cat allows the care faster than the other. The most comfortable and most convenient is to start as early as possible. The cat can then get used to it. If a kitten learns the care as soon as possible, then it is no longer weird at a later age. The cat can then enjoy it more and accept it. In one of the following messages, I will explain in which ways you can take care of a cat.

So why does cats lick and groom themselves?

cat lick themselves

A cat is a clean animal. It is already learning from the mother to take care of herself. Grooming has hygienic and psychological benefits. It is behavior that every cat does and is not strange. A cat can lick itself too much. Then it is important to find the underlying reason — a cat lick people as a token of affection and trust. A cat can take care of itself and keep it clean, but sometimes you have to help. There are things you can do to make sure your cat stays healthy.


If you comb your cat, it often loses much hair, instead of throwing it away you can recycle these cat hairs. Read in the post how can I recycle cat hair what things you can do with your cat hair.

I hope your cat likes it to lick and groom themselves. Also if you know someone with a cat that maybe even wants to read this post, feel free to share this post.

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