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Why do cats lick their fur?

Felines, big and small, are said to be the cleanest of all animals because they spend so much time licking and grooming their fur. But why do they lick their fur in the first place?
Why do cats lick their fur?

Why do cats lick their fur?

Cats groom their fur for various reasons, including keeping clean from dust, skin deposits and parasites. When a cat grooms itself, it stimulates its skin glands, whose secretions keep the fur waterproof and give it a layer that insulates against the cold. If it's hot, a cat may lick itself to wet the fur. The wetness evaporates and gives a cooling effect.

Washing - a part of socialisation

Fur washing between cats strengthens social bonds, both between mother and kittens but also between adult cats. When cats rub their face, side and tail against our legs, they wants to create friendly, physical contact with us and strengthen the social group. At the same time, there is an exchange of scent marking with the human.

Want to smell cat again

When you have had close contact with your cat through play and cuddling, your cat will often go away to lick itself. Partly to straighten their coat, which it takes care of. But also because we gave them our scent, which hides their own. By licking the fur, your cat regains their own smell.

In a cat's world, smells and odours are important cues, unlike our human lives which are dominated by visual cues such as body language.

Does your cat lick excessively?

If a cat licks itself more frantically and compulsively, even to the point of shedding its fur, then the cause should be investigated. There are many different reasons. Excessive licking can  be due to the cat being under-stimulated or stressed and licking itself intensely to relieve itself. It easily becomes a vicious circle that needs to be broken by first finding out what the underlying problem is.

What is Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

Feline Hyperesthesia syndrome is characterised by twitching of the skin. A cat will lick and bite their tail, have sudden fits, get agitated and run around the house frantically.

Feline Hyperesthesia syndrome is rare but occurs in cats of all ages. If you suspect that your cat has suffered from Feline Hyperesthesia, you should contact your vet who can investigate the underlying causes.

Has your cat's licking behaviour changed?

If your cat changes its behaviour, for example by starting to lick itself unusually much or maybe not washing itself at all, it is always good to contact a veterinarian to rule out any underlying diseases. If your cat is healthy, the change in behaviour may have a psychological cause, for example stress. In this case, it could be best to contact someone knowledgeable about cat behaviour.

Common reasons why cats lick their fur off their bellies:

  • Allergy
  • Itching or irritation of the skin
  • Psychological causes such as stress or anxiety
  • Parasite infestation
  • Pain in the abdominal cavity
  • Under-stimulation

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