The Surprising Number of Hours Cats Spend Grooming Every Day

Introduction

Grooming is an essential part of a cat’s daily routine. Cats are fastidious groomers known for their cleanliness and hygiene. They devote much of their waking hours to grooming behaviors like licking, scratching, and rubbing. Through grooming activities, cats keep their coats clean, remove loose hair, massage their skin, trim their claws, and distribute natural oils across their fur. Proper grooming is important for a cat’s health and comfort. It helps regulate body temperature, stimulates circulation, exfoliates the skin, and provides sensory stimulation. Grooming also enables cats to check for parasites, wounds, sore spots, and other potential health issues. Additionally, the grooming process spreads a cat’s scent, reinforcing territory markings. For domestic cats, supplementary brushing and grooming from owners enhances their innate cleaning rituals. Regular grooming keeps a cat’s coat soft, shiny, and matt-free. It is an integral bonding experience that provides health benefits and enhances the human-animal relationship.

Anatomy

Cats have several special features that help them effectively groom themselves, including a barbed tongue, scratchy tongue papillae, and dexterous paws with retractable claws. Their tongues have tiny, backwards-facing barbs that help remove knots and tangles, while the rough tongue papillae further help scrape away dirt and loose fur (Cat Anatomy: Unique Features and Adaptations). Cats use their flexible paws to rub and scratch their coats, and their retractable claws also aid grooming by acting like combs. Their claws help cats remove loose fur and debris from their coats (Understanding Why Cats’ Skin Moves: An Exploration of Feline Anatomy). These special anatomical features make cats well-equipped for self-grooming.

Grooming Behaviors

Cats engage in various grooming behaviors to keep themselves clean and healthy. The most common grooming behavior is licking. A cat’s tongue is covered in backward-facing spines called papillae that act like a brush to smooth fur and remove dirt and debris (https://www.texvetpets.org/article/grooming-behavior-of-cats/). Cats methodically lick their coats in a consistent pattern, starting with the head, chin and ears before moving down the neck, shoulders, torso and hindquarters.

In addition to licking, cats also scratch themselves with their claws to grab loose hairs and exfoliate the top layer of their skin. Cats may nibble or bite at mats or knots in their fur to detangle it. They also shake themselves or sneeze to resettle their coats (https://be.chewy.com/health-grooming-9-things-you-didnt-know-about-your-cats-grooming-habits/). Grooming helps distribute oils from the fur to keep it soft and fluffy.

Grooming Habits

Cats are meticulous groomers and dedicate a good portion of their day to cleaning and grooming themselves. On average, housecats spend about 50-70% of their waking hours grooming, which equates to roughly 8-14 hours per day The Cat Grooming Guide: Benefits & How to Do It. Cats tend to groom more in the mornings after waking up and evenings before going to sleep. This grooming time is spread out through the day in short frequent grooming sessions.

Cats groom themselves so often because their coats easily become tangled, dirty, or coated in oils. Frequent grooming keeps their coat clean, removes loose hair, spreads natural oils, and allows cats to examine their skin for parasites or other irritations Understanding Your Cat’s Grooming Habits. Their barbed tongues act as combs to detangle and remove loose fur. Cats then swallow the loose fur to keep their living space clean. The moisture and texture of their tongues also help spread beneficial oils across their coat.

In addition to cleaning themselves, grooming helps cats relax. The rhythmic motion of licking and nibbling releases endorphins and helps cats self-soothe. Cats often focus their grooming on areas they can’t easily reach – like their heads and necks – as a way to relieve tension and stress.

Grooming Duration

Cats spend a significant portion of their day grooming and cleaning themselves. According to the North Road Veterinary Clinic, most cats will spend 30-50% of their waking hours on grooming behaviors, which equates to 2-5 hours per day [1]. The exact amount of time a cat grooms can vary based on factors like coat length, age, and health status.

As noted by Catster, the average cat grooms itself for around 2-5 hours per day, though this range can vary [2]. Cats are fastidious groomers and their frequent grooming serves important functions like removing loose hair, distributing natural oils, inspecting for parasites/fleas, and maintaining social scent markers.

According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, cats spend 30-50% of their waking hours on grooming behaviors and consider it a normal part of a cat’s routine [3]. Their frequent self-grooming helps remove loose hair, cool down, relieve stress, distribute skin oils, and maintain general cleanliness.

Coat Length

The length of a cat’s coat has a significant impact on the amount of grooming and maintenance required. Short-haired cats generally require less frequent brushing and bathing compared to long-haired cats.

Short-haired cats, with a coat length of less than 1 inch, only need to be brushed about once or twice a week to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. This helps keep their coat looking shiny and healthy. Short-haired cats rarely need baths, perhaps just a few times a year at most.

Long-haired cats, with a coat longer than 2 inches, require much more extensive grooming. Their long fur easily becomes matted and tangled if not brushed thoroughly each day. Most long-haired cat owners aim to brush their cat’s coat daily. Long-haired cats may need baths every 4-6 weeks to thoroughly clean and detangle their coat when brushing alone is not enough.

One study found that owners spent an average of 10 minutes per day grooming short-haired cats compared to 20 minutes for long-haired cats. So the grooming time commitment roughly doubles for long-haired varieties [1].

Certain long-haired breeds like Persians and Himalayans require even more extensive daily grooming, upwards of 30 minutes per day, due to their exceptionally thick and fluffy fur. So opting for a short-haired cat can significantly reduce the grooming demands and time commitment required.

Age

A cat’s grooming habits and time spent grooming can change as they age, especially as kittens and senior cats. According to PetMD, kittens may spend more time grooming as they learn how to properly clean themselves. As kittens grow into adult cats, grooming becomes an established routine.

For senior cats, grooming duration often decreases. Older cats tend to be less active and flexible, making it more difficult to properly groom all areas. Senior cats also produce less skin oils, resulting in drier skin and fur that is prone to matting. PetFinder notes that senior cats may need assistance grooming hard-to-reach areas as their mobility decreases with age. Owners can help by regularly brushing an elderly cat’s coat.

Signs that a senior cat is struggling with grooming include: matted fur, greasy fur, dandruff flakes, and foul odors. If these issues are observed, speak to your veterinarian about ways to make grooming easier for an aging cat.

Health

Excessive grooming can sometimes be a sign of underlying health issues in cats. Medical conditions that may lead to overgrooming include skin allergies, parasites like fleas or mites, infections, pain, cognitive dysfunction, and stress. Skin allergies cause itchiness that cats try to relieve by licking and biting excessively. Parasites also cause irritation and itchiness on the skin. Infections like ringworm cause lesions and scabs that cats obsessively lick. Arthritis, dental issues, urinary tract infections, and other sources of pain can also prompt cats to overgroom as a coping mechanism. Cognitive issues in senior cats may lead to obsessive behaviors like overgrooming. And stress from changes in environment, routine, other pets, etc. can manifest as compulsive grooming. So increased grooming in cats should prompt examination by a vet to diagnose and treat any underlying medical causes.

Tips

There are several tips that can help support a cat’s grooming routine and keep their coat healthy:

Start grooming kittens when they are young so they get used to being brushed and handled. Use treats and praise to make it a positive experience (source: https://www.pumpkin.care/blog/cat-grooming-tips/).

Brush cats regularly, at least once a week, to remove loose hair and prevent matting. Use a cat-specific brush like a slicker brush or dematting comb (source: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cat-grooming-tips).

Bathe cats only when necessary, using a mild cat shampoo. Make bath time relaxing by keeping them calm and massaging them (source: https://unionlakepetservices.com/blog/yes-its-possible-6-tips-for-cat-grooming-at-home).

Pay attention to cleaning ears, clipping nails, and brushing teeth regularly as part of the grooming routine (source: https://www.pumpkin.care/blog/cat-grooming-tips/).

Consider enlisting a professional groomer if your cat needs additional help with shedding, matting, or hygiene issues.

Conclusion

To recap the key points, cats spend a large portion of their day grooming and cleaning themselves. Their rough tongue contains small hooks called papillae that enable them to effectively remove dirt, parasites, and loose hair. Cats have a natural impulse to stay clean and well-groomed through behaviors like licking, scratching, and chewing. On average, house cats spend around 50% of their waking hours, or 4-6 hours per day, on self-grooming activities. This grooming time helps cats maintain healthy skin and coats. The exact duration depends on factors like coat length, age, and health condition. By providing proper nutrition, scheduling vet visits, and helping groom hard-to-reach areas, cat owners can support their feline friends’ natural grooming habits. Keeping cats clean and well-groomed is an important part of their health and wellbeing.

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