If you’re among the 30 percent of pet-owning households with a cat and you’ve ever tried to bathe that beloved feline, you likely understand why it is a blessing that most cats clean themselves. When they’re awake, chances are they’re lounging, hunting, playing, eating, or (more likely) grooming. In fact, cats spend up to 50 percent of their awake time licking their bodies.
The Extraordinary Cat Tongue
Science has studied the tongue of six species of cats (from domestic to lion) and have discovered some interesting aspects of how the cat’s tongue is unique. Their research found that cats’ tongues have “spines”, known as cavo papillae, that allows their saliva to get deeper into their fur without drenching it. These U-shaped papillae are almost like a straw, holding saliva on their tongue in an efficient way that allows them to distribute it deeper into their undercoat.
Seven Reasons Why Cats Lick Themselves
Cats are licked from the time they’re born. The mother cat licks them to stimulate their blood flow and excretory functions, and also to create a bond as they are birthed. Once grown, cats take on grooming themselves for various other reasons including:
1. To Clean
Naturally, the most obvious reason is to stay clean. One of the reasons why cats do not like baths is because it is uncomfortably heavy for their fur to get saturated. By cleaning with their tongues, paws, and teeth, they are able to remove both light and heavy materials from their skin and fur without feeling like they are wearing a wet blanket.
2. To Protect
Cats use their cleanliness to remove scents such as dirt or food that could reveal them to their predators.
3. To Cool Off
The human body sweats to maintain a comfortable temperature when getting overheated. The sweat moistens our skin and cools it as it evaporates. In the same way, cat’s saliva cools their bodies as it evaporates.
4. To Show Affection
Friendly felines will show their affection by licking their friends or owners. Cats won’t just lick anyone, but you might get lucky if they really trust you.
5. To Alleviate Pain/Discomfort
Some cats may spend too much time licking areas of pain or discomfort. Termed “fur mowers,” these cats will lick target areas (for pain) or broad areas (for itching) that can result in bald patches. Licking also helps to increase blood flow just as brushing your hair stimulates blood flow in your scalp. If your cat has bald spots, a supplement, like SeaMeal, can help support healthy skin and coat in as little as 4 weeks. Just sprinkle on dry kibble or mix with wet food twice a day.
*Note: it is important to contact your vet if you suspect your cat is experiencing any pain or discomfort.
6. To Clean Wounds
Cat saliva contains many enzymes and proteins that aid in keeping wounds clean. Experts report there are many healing components to cat saliva from antibacterial to pain relief. Of course, if your cat has a serious wound, you should always seek veterinary care.
7. To Relax
Ever taken a long, hot bath to relax after a rough day? Staying clean is a relaxation ritual for cats. Likewise, if you see your cat cleaning themselves, they’re likely in a relaxed state. Similar to rubbing your shoulders or feet, cats find comfort and relaxation in the process of keeping their coats clean and shiny.
No matter the reason your cat may be grooming themselves, this process allows a large amount of hair to be ingested. This hair can ball up in the cat’s digestive tract causing digestive upset (and the inevitable hairball on your kitchen floor). Increasing the fiber content in the diet helps to move the hairball through the digestive tract and reduces the risk of digestive upset causing vomiting of hairballs.
To better serve the unique nutritional needs of indoor cats, Solid Gold is proud to offer Let’s Stay In, a line of Indoor Dry Cat Foods. Let’s Stay In is available in two flavors; Chicken, Lentils and Apple Recipe and Salmon, Lentils and Apple Recipe. Formulated with higher protein, fat, and fiber and of course, Solid Gold’s blend of functional superfoods and probiotics, these foods are perfectly formulated to address the unique nutritional needs of indoor cats while providing gut health and overall immune support. If you’re looking for a canned cat food that has benefits for your indoor cat and is just as tasty, check out Flavorful Feast Indoor Recipe with Chicken!
Nourish your pet, inside and out.