There are so many things to love about cats. One thing humans truly appreciate is that cats are very clean and take meticulous care when it comes to personal hygiene. In fact, grooming takes up a big chunk of a cat’s day. It’s estimated that cats can spend as much as 30-50 percent of their waking hours involved in grooming. All that grooming isn’t done just to look good. The grooming a cat does serves many important functions.
Good Coat Condition
Daily grooming helps the cat remove dander and loose hairs from the coat. As the cat licks, his tongue also spreads the sebum which contributes to giving the coat a beautiful luster.
After eating, the cat engages in a good face washing by licking his paws and using them as furry washcloths. Upon exiting the litter box, the cat will also typically do a little clean-up of the hindquarters.
Even the cat’s nails are maintained through scratching behavior. When the cat digs his claws into the scratching post, he’s conditioning his claws by removing the outer dead nail sheath to reveal the healthy new growth beneath (cats need to scratch for a variety of reasons as well, not just for claw conditioning).
Grooming helps the cat remove fleas, ticks and other external parasites. One of the reasons you may not even realize your cat has a flea problem is because of the meticulous grooming. You may never actually see a flea moving around on him. It often surprises many cat parents when they discover the reason for the cat’s skin irritation or constant itching is due to fleas.
Cats have a limited ability to sweat through their paw pads. This is why you may notice those damp paw prints on the examination table when your cat is getting his yearly check-up. The most efficient cooling system they have is through evaporation. The cat uses his tongue to wet the fur and then evaporation of the saliva cools him down.
Self Scent Identification
Have you ever noticed how your cat may begin grooming himself after you’ve petted or brushed him? That’s because he wants to re-establish his own scent again. He’ll also often self groom after returning from the outdoors, the veterinary clinic or after returning home from any other travel.
This is the most common displacement behavior cats exhibit. It appears to be a valuable coping mechanism for dealing with stress and conflict. It may look odd to see a cat in a tense stand-off suddenly engage in self grooming but it’s most likely how he keeps his anxiety and arousal level in check. A cat may also use displacement grooming to deal with frustration, for example: the cat who isn’t let outside when he cries at the door may begin to groom.