Hygiene and cleanliness are crucial to felines and their owners alike. Pet owners don’t want a smelly or dirty cat. This makes it vital to understand just how clean cats are in reality.
As natural predators, cats do whatever they can to stay clean and mask their scent. Healthy cats spend up to 50% of their waking time grooming themselves. Lack of interest in self-care is a sign of stress or ill health. But cats catch rodents, and also use their paws to cover urine and feces in litter trays.
We’ll look at your cat’s grooming routines and behaviors, and how she manages to stay clean. Learn when your cat is at her cleanest and which day-to-day scenarios require a helping hand from you.
Are Cats Clean or Dirty?
Cats are clean animals, primarily because it’s a basic survival mechanism. In the wild, cats hunt for food. This means they need to be as stealthy as possible in order to be successful.
Cats can then blend into any environment without their scent revealing their whereabouts. Cats also keep themselves clean so that predators cannot detect them. Here are some cat cleanliness facts:
- According to Family Pet, cats spend roughly 10% of their waking hours cleaning themselves. This could rise as high as 50%.
- Cats have tiny barbs on their tongue, called papillae. These help your cat to trap and remove dirt and loose fur from her coat.
- Cats always like to groom themselves after eating. This is so they can remove the lingering scent of food from their fur altogether.
- You may notice your cat licking her paws and then rubbing her face/head/body. This is your pet cleaning parts of her body that cannot be reached with her tongue.
- If two cats groom each other, it’s a sign that they’re friends. Cats that enjoy each other’s company will often help each other clean hard-to-reach spots.
- Cats that clean themselves to excess most likely have stress and anxiety. You will know if your cat is over-grooming as she will likely start removing her fur.
- Grooming cats are regulating their body temperature. Cats will groom far more during the summer months to cool themselves down. It’s similar to sweat drying on humans.
Remember, your cat grooming herself is perfectly normal, provided that it’s not to excess. It’s when your pet loses interest in grooming that you need to take action.
Why Do Cats Stop Grooming Themselves?
A happy and healthy cat will never stop grooming herself. In many respects, this behavior is just as worrying as refusing to eat and drink water.
It may not result in the same immediate physical danger, but the psychological impact is similar. If your cat is not cleaning herself, she’ll often become withdrawn and depressed.
The most likely explanations for a cat failing to groom are pain or the physical inability to do so.
Does it Hurt My Cat to Clean Herself?
As cats get older, they become prone to arthritis and joint problems. This is particularly likely in felines aged 12 or over.
If your cat is arthritic, they will struggle to maneuver their joints sufficiently for cleaning. Grooming is not easy for felines – they require a degree of flexibility. If they’re in constant pain with their joints, it won’t be possible. Here’s some advice on grooming senior felines.
If you suspect that your pet is becoming arthritic, see a vet. Together, you can draw up a plan to ease your cat’s discomfort. This may include painkilling medication.
If your pet is younger but seems to find grooming painful, check if they’re eating. If not, they may be experiencing dental pain. This will make them reluctant to clean themselves.
Is My Cat Physically Incapable of Cleaning Herself?
There is also the possibility that your cat has piled on the pounds. An overweight cat will be unable to reach pivotal areas to clean themselves. This includes cleaning the bottom after using the litter tray. Consult a vet about an eating and exercise plan for your fat cat.
Older cats may also struggle with the act of cleaning. We have already discussed arthritis, but they may lack energy. A good, thorough feline self-clean is a real cardio workout.
Is My Cat Cleaning Themselves Too Much?
Excessive grooming is a common symptom of stress in cats. It’s called psychogenic alopecia.
As Mercola explains, when your cat grooms herself, it releases endorphins. This means that a feline may groom to excess to self-soothe herself when distressed. This can become harmful, resulting in a cat removing large clumps of her fur.
If your cat appears to be cleaning herself constantly, you should assess her routine. Felines do not cope well with change, so this may be causing her a lot of distress.
If you cannot readily identify the cause of her concern, speak to a vet. Your cat may be hiding a medical condition that is causing her significant emotional anguish.
Is a Cat Cleaner Than a Dog?
Most breeds of dogs lack the hunting instincts of cats. They do not feel compelled to erase any trace of their scent. A dog will lick her paws spotless and clean up after any trip to the bathroom.
This is not because dogs are lazy. They just lack the dexterity of a cat. Most dogs are unable to contort themselves into the positions required to lick their fur clean.
There will be exceptions. Some dogs are meticulously clean, and some cats are comparatively slovenly. As a rule, canines cannot reach the same levels of unassisted cleanliness as felines.
Do Cats Need to be Bathed and Shampooed?
Most cats can live without a bath or shower. But there will be occasions that it becomes necessary, however. If your cat is unable to clean herself, then she’ll start to smell. If your cat spends time outside, she may roll in poo, urine, and dirt that needs additional cleaning.
If your cat does need a bath, she’s unlikely to take kindly to it. Follow the advice of Preventative Vet to prevent the experience from becoming an ordeal:
- Get a friend to help as bathing a cat is a two-person job.
- Fill a kitchen sink with warm water. A cat’s skin can easily be damaged by water that’s too hot.
- Place your cat in the water and dampen her fur. This is when she will start resisting.
- Lather a cat-friendly shampoo into your pet’s fur. Leave it for a minute or two.
- Rinse the shampoo away with a low-pressure showerhead or tap.
- Thoroughly dry your cat off using a soft towel.
A bath may not always be necessary. Unscented baby wipes may do the trick in most cases, alongside brushing. That said, cats that clean themselves regularly do a comprehensive job.
Are Cats Clean After Pooping?
If you provide your pet with a litter tray, she’ll usually make use of it. Litter is helpful as it disguises the scent of a cat’s waste. It also provides your cat with a chance to bury her waste.
After doing her business, your cat will hurriedly clean herself. The only exception will be if your cat is elderly or obese. If she’s unable to reach her behind, a cat will not be able to clean it. Some fecal matter gets stuck to your cat’s bottom and matted in your cat’s fur.
If excess weight is preventing your cat from staying clean after pooping, ask your vet for a new diet plan. You’ll need to get your cat to drop this excess weight for numerous health reasons.
How Clean are Cats’ Tongues?
Cats use their tongue to clean their behind after pooping. You will also recall that your cat’s tongue is filled with tiny barbs. This means that fur, dirt, and debris will be trapped within.
But feline saliva has many healing properties. This means that being licked by a cat may speed up the healing of open wounds. It’s definitely not recommended, though.
Tread carefully when it comes to kissing your cat. The occasional lick will not do any real harm to a healthy adult, but we’re all at risk of getting infectious zoonotic diseases from cats. Children or anybody with a compromised immune system are most at risk.
How Clean are Cats’ Mouths?
A cat’s mouth is typically a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Your cat will hunt wildlife all day, especially vermin. Naturally, a mouse/rat/rodent will leave harmful bacteria behind if caught.
That’s why it is vital that you brush your cat’s teeth regularly. The bacteria in their mouths can have a serious effect on your cat’s gums and teeth. Gum disease can spread and cause other health concerns. It’s quite common for a cat to refuse to eat due to teeth problems.
If your cat refuses to allow you to brush her teeth, you’ll have to book your pet in with a vet for clean. This involves putting your cat under anesthetic, and a hygienist removing any traces of plaque or tartar. This is obviously more risk if you have a senior feline.
Just remember that cats eat rodents (that often carry disease), and they use their paws to cover up their own feces and urine. Cats eat bugs, which also are also filthy. Cats may spend much of their time grooming, but they also have some very unclean habits that can potentially make humans ill.