Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | December 10, 2008

Cat Grooming Isn’t Just About Cleanliness


A whole Pet Column dedicated to cat’s bathing protocols?  Are we trying to run our readers off???  Wait – don’t go away  – I can guarantee you will learn something beyond cat cleaning routines in today’s Pet Column.  But let’s start with our unique bathing routines – which aren’t just random and hapless events.  Almost all cats lick themselves regularly and as part of our bathing procedure we almost all do it in the same order: paws, sides of face, behind the ears, chest, etc.  Yes, another indication of our neat and orderly tendencies that make us fit so well into households appreciative of cleanliness.

We were taught this cleaning patented protocol by our mothers and we stick with it.  (And yes, kittens unfortunate enough to be separated from their mother’s at birth do not learn to clean themselves until several months later and usually only by observing cats or kittens that are familiar with the behavior ).  Also, according to Dr. Cynthia L. McManis, a board certified Veterinarian and the source for the majority of information in this article, cats spend about 30-50% or our waking life grooming.  And, as you will learn if you read on, it is not simply out of vanity. 

Have you noticed that after eating, bathing is the first thing we attend to?  This is an instinctual habit intended to remove residuals scents of our dinner that could attract predators.  This is also why new mothers eat placentas and meticulously clean their newborn.  

Beyond protection, grooming also serves as critical temperature control.  During hot weather our saliva acts as a cooling mechanism (other than through our paws we don’t really sweat much like humans do)  and serves as one third of our cooling process through the evaporation of our saliva from our fur.  In the cooler months our freshly licked fur is aided by the natural oils from the glands of our skin to insulate our bodies from the cold and damp.

It is also believed that our saliva contains enzymes that act as an antibiotic to wounds that we lick while additionally removing invading parasites from such wounds.  And we also find that after any kind of trauma – whether resulting from a wound or from just being frightened, licking helps to relax us.  So licking is a stress reducer to cats – pay attention next time you have to scold your cat for scratching the furniture or being naughty in some way, or after becoming startled.  Does she tend to lick herself shortly afterwards?

My favorite use of the “sport” of licking is to express affection toward one of my cat friends here at the shelter or for people that I have bonded to or accepted into my “home turf”.  We don’t do this to just anyone so consider yourself special to be licked by a cat – we tend to be selective you know.

So if you are looking for a lovely and beautifully natured cat  who is a cleaning machine with natural self-protection, self-temperature regulation, and germ fighting skills, who will honor you with affectionate licks when the mood is right – come down to the Second Chance Shelter and ask for Tango.  (Yes, I am an accomplished dancer as well…)

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about  the SCHS Spay/Neuter Voucher , Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Questions for next week’s column can be sent to:



  1. nice info..thanks for sharing

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