Why Do Cats Lick and Groom Themselves?

Cat 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 an 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 teeth to clean deeper spots. Licking is a social activity that serves to strengthen the bond between cats.

In this blog post, you can read more about the cat’s licking behavior. How does this behavior develop, what is the function, under which circumstances is it shown? And when is licking a deviant behavior by your cat?

Mother Cat and Kittens

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 stimulate 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 can not go to the litter box themselves. In this way, the mother cat ensures that the litter stays clean and that 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 paws. After a few days, this is followed 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.

Adult cat

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 its 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 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. The smell is so essential to a cat that it often licks itself just after stroking. This cat not only restores its smell but also absorbs 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 posts, or furniture. As a result, he keeps his nails sharp and keeps the discharge from the glands in his legs behind on the object he likes.

Licking Patterns
Why do cats lick and groom themselves?

If you’ve ever seen or paid attention to 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 cleaned, the cat cleans the front legs, shoulders, flanks, anogenital area, hind legs, and tail with long tongue strokes. 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. Also, it cools the cat down through the evaporation of saliva. It stimulates glands attached to hair roots that secrete substances to keep hair water-proofed. Grooming can also have psychological benefits. A cat may groom to reduce conflict, frustration, or anxiety temporarily. Serotonin, a “happiness hormone,” is released by licking. When 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 that form a social group greet each other by licking, and they help keep each other’s coats clean.

Extremely Licking

A cat can lick excessively or almost no longer lick. As with any behavioral change, it is also important 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 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. Look at how cats behave with each other and what cat licking is tolerating or not. 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, aggression can be slicked, probably from a gesture to make up for it again. No clear answer can be given as to 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 be given. 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 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 to care as soon as possible, it is no longer weird later. The cat can then enjoy it more and accept it. In one of the following posts, I will explain how you can take care of a cat.

So Why Does Cats Lick and Groom 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 a 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 licks 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.

cat lick themselves


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

I hope your cat likes it to lick and groom themselves. Also, if you I hope your cat likes 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.

By Marleen

Marleen is a truly madly deeply cat lover and founder of That Is for My Cat. She wants to share her knowledge about cats with other people who like to know more about cats.

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