How And Why Do Cats Clean Themselves? A Guide To Grooming, Licking, Biting, And Self-Bathing

Can cats clean themselves? Why is your kitty constantly licking himself? Why do felines bite their fur?

When it comes to hygiene, feline furballs of all breeds and ages can be seen licking, biting, and grooming themselves daily.

The act of cleaning is not only a hygiene practice but also a bonding experience for cats when they clean each other.

Mothers lick their kittens to clean them as well as to provide a sense of comfort. Cats that are close to their owners might lick their pet parents. Many felines living under the same roof will lick each other, thus expressing affection.

But how do cats clean themselves? The cleaning process features the tongue, front paws, and teeth. Their barbed and bristled tongues are suited for catching any dirt, debris, and fallen hair. They also wet their paws with saliva and use them as a washcloth substitute.

Moreover, they use their teeth when cleaning themselves. Their incisor teeth come in handy for nibbling through tangled hair and foreign particles stuck to their fur.

So, that’s the basic how, why and what of cat cleaning themselves. They do groom themselves in a variety of ways, they can groom each other, and oh, they’ll probably make sure to do it in front of you because, well, they’re cats.

But what about things we have to help them with?

What Can’t Cats Clean?

Don’t get us wrong. Out of all popular domesticated animals, including dogs, cats are most definitely the cleanest. However, there are certain things which they simply can’t deal with, no matter how determined.


As your cat is trying to untangle his matted fur, it’s also shedding it. Furthermore, it’s also swallowing hairballs, which lead to vomiting, gastrointestinal issues, and other problems.

On top of that, the cat hair falling from your pet’s body isn’t 100% clean just because your cat has licked it. It’s still carrying allergen agents, dust, oils, and debris.

Make sure to brush or use a de-shedding tool regularly on your kitty to help make sure she doesn’t suffer from hairballs.


No matter how thoroughly your furball is nibbling his fur, it can never fully get rid of ticks, fleas, and other parasites.

As clean as cats are, they can easily contract worms and other internal parasites. Your furry pal’s inborn instincts for hygiene won’t tell it that it’s not supposed to wander around a dirty spot, sniff infected feces, or eat an infected rodent.

Dental Problems

Cats can’t brush their teeth. They will eat grass when they want to induce vomiting to clean their stomachs. However, they won’t do anything to clean their pearly whites, since the natural eating process usually helps them stay clean.

If you’ve got an inside cat that doesn’t eat dry food, consider getting some dental chews or feed dry food once in a while to help clean the teeth.

Getting rid of tartar build-up, bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, and food leftovers aren’t your furball’s priority. And even if you’re the proud owner of an overall healthy breed, your pet is still prone to suffering from dental problems.

They Can’t Thoroughly Clean Their Fur

Regardless of the effort, your precious pet is putting into licking himself, it can never fully clean his fur. Grooming the cat manually is a must for every single pet parent out there. It doesn’t matter if you own a long or shorthaired cat.

Some breeds will need weekly brushing, whereas others will need it daily.

Moreover, all cat breeds require bathing. It’s a well-known fact that most felines out there aren’t big fans of the water and they act aggressively during bath time, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bathe your pet.

Not all cats hate water. Some simply dislike it, while others get petrified in the bathtub. Of course, some even enjoy it, such as the Turkish Van cat.

Regardless of your feline furball’s breed, age, and fur coat, you should groom it manually. Don’t rely on your cat’s self-cleaning techniques. Otherwise, you’ll compromise his physical health.

Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!