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Franny Syufy

Why Do Cats Wash Themselves So Often

By October 2, 2013

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I love to watch my cats groom themselves. It relaxes me so much, I can almost purr. But if it becomes an obsession, it may be a symptom of a problem

photo of male cat washing kitten
Image © Franny Syufy

Often when cats are not grooming themselves, they are washing other cats with their rough, barbed tongues, and even grooming the humans they love. Last night I woke up to my Jenny, atop my head on the pillow with both paws holding my temples, as she groomed my hair. The photo shown here is our Jaspurr, who was carefully grooming Billy, when he was just a kitten. Billy was either blissful from the attention or afraid to move. It can be amusing to see a cat racing wildly all over the house, then suddenly stop, lift a hind leg in the air, and meticulously lick each hair of his inner leg. A typical behavioral pattern then is to find a place to curl up for a cat-nap. Makes me sleepy just to think of it.

There is much more involved in the subject of cats' self-grooming. For instance, several studies are ongoing on the topic of saliva, both human and animal: whether it has antiseptic properties or not. If you're of an investigative nature, try observing your cat(s)' washing habits: how often a day they occur; any particular stimulus; what do they do afterward; who else do they groom. I've found that observing my cats' habits seems to tighten our already strong bond, and understanding is knowledge gained. I'll be looking forward to seeing the stories my readers will report. Feel free to add your comments to those already posted below.


December 23, 2012 at 1:58 am
(1) Charlene Boardman says:

I have a neutered male cat who was named Lola as we misunderstood his nether regions! He is about 6 years old and a lovely, gentle, cuddly soul. We added Silly Sally cat who is a spayed rescue kitten 3 months ago, she is 9 months old. She is adorable, affectionate, playful and loves to groom everyone! Lola has become playful and silly when with her, it’s so much fun! Sally does most of the grooming and everyone is included! We get thoroughly licked and rubbed, she is wonderful!

December 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm
(2) Roslyn says:

Well Gemma, my adorable Siamese has a very annoying grooming habit, she loves to sleep between my husband and myself, as soon as we are all about to go to sleep, she starts grooming, the sound of the licking and the body movements drives my husband crazy, as he is a light sleeper! She does this every night, she has a routine after the lights are out, she goes and has a snack of biscuits, drinks water, uses the litter and then squirms her way in between us and then starts her grooming session which lasts about 10 mins!
I have noticed my two female siblings groom each other and often when one or the other wants to join her sister in their favourite curling up spot. If one sister does not look welcoming, the other starts to groom her and then they both relax together!

December 27, 2012 at 9:03 pm
(3) Franny Syufy says:

Roslyn, it sounds as if Gemma is very bonded with you and your husband. In the overall scheme of things, perhaps 10 minutes isn’t so long for his discomfort. It’s sweet that your two littermates are so close. My two littermate brothers, who are now almost 11, still indulge in mutual grooming, although once in awhile they get into little spats.

December 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm
(4) Nita says:

My daughter put a picture of this little blue eyed kitten on facebook and said “mom you need to come and see her, she is so cute” She was one of the barn kittens. I went over and could not resist this sweet little kitten, so I brought her home with me. I took her to the vet for a checkup and he did bloodwork on her and told me she has feline leukemia. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. The vet said some don’t live very long and others do fairly well. It has been 2 1/2 yrs. now and she seems to be doing well. She is very active, playful, and so loving. Usually, she grooms herself right before she takes a nap.. it seems like it’s a way to make herself tired We love her…

December 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm
(5) Franny Syufy says:

Nita, bless you for giving this kitten a home. You might ask your vet if s/he can test her again. Sometimes there are “false positives” with very young kittens for FeLV and FIV. In any case, I’m glad she’s doing so well. I suspect self-grooming is very relaxing for cats, as they almost always sleep when they finish. As I wrote earlier, it’s so relaxing to watch that it sometimes makes me sleepy too. :)

December 28, 2012 at 11:25 pm
(6) Delana Farve says:

When I want lots of good kitty kisses, I lean in close when Beeder Deeder is grooming! She’s my 12 yr. old torie. My sweetie.

June 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm
(7) mizliz says:

I had a cat that bless her little hear was neurotic & over groomed! Her little belly was bald & some times had little sores from her rough tongue.I think she tried to soothe & comfort herself by grooming, but she way over did it! Poor baby!

June 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm
(8) MiltonandMolly says:

Molly (female 1 yr spayed) grooms both me and Milton (male 4 yrs neutered), but not as much as when she was first adopted and still a kitten.

She seems to enjoy giving the rest of the family a good bath.

October 3, 2013 at 7:01 am
(9) E says:

I love this article. My last cat, the beautiful black Aja, decided I was her kitten, and always groomed me. She was the only one I ever had that did that. The Vowels are still very bonded at almost 10.5 years of age, and groom each other all the time.

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