How Do Cats Know They're Dirty?

I was just looking at a cat and he looked all spiffy. Anyway, he walks around, hops up and down off the furniture then he finds a nice place in the sun and starts to lick (clean) his paws and the rest of himself.

How does a cat determain he’s dirty? I can see if he steps in mud, he’d know, but like this guy, looked pretty clean already. Or do they just do it as daily routine and I caught him doing his routine cleaning.

(PS Not part of the question but don’t you hate it when you pet a cat and it immediately starts to clean himself, like he’s offended you touched him) :slight_smile:

It’s mostly a hard-wired routine. I’ve seen our cats stop in the middle of a full-speed run to lick their fur.

They just do it all the time. I’ve read that it’s one of those “don’t smell like a predator” sort of things. They also groom each other to show how much they love one another, issa good skitty cat.

Mine also do “composure grooming” when they do something embarrassing like fall off the couch.

I’m sure it’s built-in maintenance, Cats don’t care if they’re dirty – they’ll clean anyway. What amazes me is that a at will stop what he or she is doing because they have to lick their paw right now! Don’t ask why – just do it!

Now… What was I doing?

According to this, cats lick their fur in the sun to get vitamin D.

One of my cats always licks my husband’s fingers after he’s smoked a cigarette. We don’t know if it’s because she likes the way they taste (ew), or if it’s because she thinks they smell dirty and she’s trying to clean him up.

It’s also a routine that can go wrong under stress. I once had a cat that licked off all of her fur from her waist to the tip of her tail. The vet called it neurotic overgrooming. We had gotten another cat and ended up having to find him another home so that she would stop. She looked ten kinds of pathetic.

Birds do that, too. Some birds will groom their feathers until they pull big patches of them out under stress.

Maybe they just lick themselves as a test and let taste be their guide to determine if they need more licking or not.

When Dewey used to groom me before he got other cats to groom, he’d pick, like, my arm, and he’d lick and lick and lick and then take a good long look at me and say, one more lick. Evidently there was a point at which it was “done”.

Maybe they just like the taste of pussy.

How can I follow that act?

Two of our cats (4 months old) groom relentlessly, but our one-year-old cat never grooms. We have to give her a bath. :frowning:

I’ll have to find a cite, but I read an article that said that a cat has a set routine, running from the face back to the tip of the tail. When wanting to groom themselves, they’ll pick up from wherever they left off last time. That way they’re sure to clean the entire body every few days.

I have to tell you, it’s really amazing - when I grabbed Stokie out from under a porch and called the vet to schedule his shots and deballing, I asked if they could give him a bath, since there was no way in fucking hell I was going to do it and the cat was gross. I mean, I did have a shirt I wore with him just in case he had some kind of contact cat syphilis that didn’t need to go to our other cats, and that shirt got disgusting. You washed your hands when you petted him. They said if he hadn’t gotten into a skunk or anything to just leave him be and he’d clean himself up.

A week later, you’d never know it was the same cat. Given adequate food, water, and shelter, and kept indoors, he did clean right up. Now he’s positively shiny. You wouldn’t even recognize him. Vet said that feral cats just don’t have the opportunity to get as clean as they’d like to get, but most indoor cats will work on themselves until they’re clean.

OK, I fail, my google-fu is weak. No cite.

For the first time I have a male cat and a female. I’ve noticed that the female grooms the male more than he grooms her. Do other people have that experience, or is it just true for these two?

No. I have a female and a male, and it’s the male who really, really wants to lick the female’s ears. But she won’t let him. So he licks my kid.

Anyone have any kissers? I’ve had three in my lifetime-my cat from when I was growing up, my Fluffy, and my recently pasted away, Misty. And now of course, our Buffy. Misty used to get right up and practically lick inside my nose at times.

We had a cat that would lick OUR hair. We would be watching TV, and she’d get up on the couch behind our heads and just start licking and kind of half-chewing our hair. We couldn’t discourage her - as soon as we chase her down from the back of the couch, she’d jump back up and start doing it again.

Not constantly, like one or two days a week.

If I can coax my cat onto my pillow, she’ll purr away and clean my hair. It’s endearing.