Seeing a cat licking itself is the most normal thing in the world. Besides giving you the once-over every time you walk by them, cats tend to spend time giving themselves a good going-over by licking themselves all over whenever they get the chance. But, have you ever wondered why they lick themsleves? To us, it’s like watching the same scene replayed over and again, but cats know that the reasons behind this replayed scene may often differ.
Cats lick themselves to keep themselves well-groomed. This is undoubtedly the most common of all reasons. This factor is fundamental for cats, because it not only keeps their fur clean but also improves their fur’s function. Each lick softens and smooths the cat’s fur, hence improving its insulating effect as the glands in their skin are stimulated, waterproofing their coat.
Besides, cats only have sweat glands in their footpads and so do not sweat and need the evaporation of the saliva they leave on their skin on licking themselves as a way of cooling off.
Cats lick themselves to calm down. So, they are reducing the stress to which they sometimes experience. This is known as “displacement behavior”. When cats are upset or feel threatened, they groom their flanks and back. If a cat starts cleaning its nose and the hair around its mouth with short, quick licks, it’s a sign that the cat feels nervous and also excited about something. This ritual helps the cat to rid itself of that nervousness.
Cats lick themselves to show peacefulness. Cats don’t like confrontations, much less with another cat. When we put two cats together who aren’t familiar with one another, they will try to show each other that they don’t want any problems. They will position themselves discreetly, turning their body so as leave their side facing the other animal, starting their grooming ritual, inviting the other cat to do the same, indicating that it’s not looking for any confrontation.
Cats lick themselves as social bonding. These licks clearly indicate the cats having a good relationship among them. The purpose is not grooming, nor does it have to be part of the mating ritual, but rather to reinforce already-existing bonds by creating a shared smell connecting all members of the family. This grooming usually takes place on the face and back and is much more frequent among females than males. Oh, if you are lucky, your cat will include you in the group and so you’ll get your share of licks.