Although they hate baths, cats still have set very high standards of personal hygiene. In fact, the average feline spends around four hours per day keeping themselves clean.
And if you've ever watched a cat going through its grooming routine, then you've probably noticed how meticulously they approach the task. Still, you might need to give them a bath now and again, now matter cats hate water.
Cats cleaning themselves
They usually start by licking themselves with their rough, coarse tongues. These are perfectly designed for picking up bits of grime, while their sharp teeth can dig out any dirt trapped in the fur.
Then they lick the back of their paws and use them as makeshift washcloths, rubbing them all over their bodies in small, circular motions. They also have a special way of cleaning their "delicate areas", but I won't describe that in any detail!
Cats cleaning other cats
A new mother will begin licking her kittens as soon as they're born. This keeps the kittens nice and clean, but it also encourages them to urinate, defecate, and suckle for milk.
Mutual grooming is common among littermates and often continues into cat adulthood. Otherwise known allogrooming, cats cleaning other cats is a social activity that strengthens bonds and establishes hierarchical relationships.
Cats who clean themselves too much
Daily grooming has loads of health benefits. It keeps a cat's coat clean and smooth, reduces the risk of parasitic infestations, stimulates the glands that maintain a healthy coat, and it even helps regulate body temperature. It also has some psychological benefits.
Grooming releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. This is one of nature's tricks to encourage behaviours conducive to long-term survival, including the reduction of stress and tension. This is obviously very good for your cat, but only when they're doing it for the right reasons.
Excessive grooming can be a sign of displacement behaviour. In other words, the cat is feeling nervous or anxious, and grooming becomes a distraction from these negative emotions. Common causes of mental health issues in cats include a change of environment, the arrival of a new pet or family member, or a lack of stimulation. If you do notice any worrying changes in your cat’s routine, then speak to a vet. Over grooming can lead to skin infections and various degrees of a hair loss, a condition known as “Psychogenic Alopecia.”
Give them a helping paw
Despite their high levels of cleanliness, cats still have a few problems to reach places. Problem areas include the inside of their ears, around the eyes, and inside the mouth. Here’s a few tips on how to keep then clean:
Tip #1 Keeping their teeth clean
You can prevent any dental issues by brushing your cat's teeth on a regular basis. Just make sure you use specially designed cat toothpaste, the product we humans use is toxic to some cats. Ideally, try to brush their teeth at least once a day. If that's not possible, aim for three times a week.
Tip #2 Get inside those ears
Generally speaking, cat's ears will only need cleaning after they become infected. Speak to your vet for more advice. They can prescribe cleaning lotions and ear drops.
Tip #3 Clean those weepy eyes
Some cats suffer from weepy eyes, and so you may notice a build-up of mucus around the bottom of the eyelid. This is really easy to stay on top off; just use a soft piece of gauze and some warm water.
What if they get really dirty?
To be honest, this won't happen very often. Remember, cats spend hours each day licking and grooming themselves, and they will rarely need a helping hand. But when they do, you could try giving them a bath. But be warned, most cats don't like water, and many of them absolutely hate it!
If you can get them in the baty, always use specially designed cat shampoo. Human shampoo cna be toxic for cats. After the bath, make sure they’re completely dry. This is really important for cats with long hair and older cats. You can towel dry your cat or use a hair dryer (just make sure it’s on a cool setting!)
Other options include dry shampoo. It usually comes in a can and has a foamy texture which you brush through the cat's fur. It's really simple to use, inexpensive, and a great choice for cats who aren't keen on bathtime. You can find this stuff at pet stores or online.
You can also use some baby wipes. Just make sure your work slowly, wiping in a gentle, circular motion that mimics your cat's natural movements.
Brushing your cat's coat will also help keep them clean. This is best done during your cat’s more relaxed moments, such as after dinner or when they are snoozing on your lap.
Cats are naturally clean animals, and most can be trusted to look after themselves. However, they might still need a helping paw now and again. Chances are they won't be too enthusiastic about taking a bath, but there are still a few ways to help them maintain their impeccable grooming standards!