Cats Grooming by Karamysh via Shutterstock
By Cheryl Lock | Pet360.com
Cats are well known for their cleanliness. All day long, with the licking and the preening-it seems like it's never-ending.
Still, despite all the time my own cat spends cleaning herself, I'm often left wondering… is that really getting her clean? How much am I supposed to contribute to this cleanliness process?
I decided to find out.
The Tools Cats Use to Clean
For cats, their main grooming tools are their tongues, teeth, paws and claws. As you may have noticed, cats have rough, sandpapery tongues. If you look closely there are rows of hooked, backwards-facing spines, known as papillae, that act like bristles on a brush to help them detangle and clean their fur.
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Often you'll find that your cat will clean herself right after she's eaten. This habit dates back to cats in the wild, who cleaned themselves after meals to remove the smell of food (their saliva is an odor-hider) and to help avoid having potential predators smell it and come find them.
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What's This White Stuff?
One of the most common questions cat owners have about cat grooming involves dander. While it's sometimes confused with dandruff, dander is actually microscopic pieces of dry cat skin that can become airborne and could potentially cause allergic reactions in some pet owners.
In particular, Fel D1, which is a glycoprotein found in a cat's sebaceous glands under the skin, can cause allergy problems. The issue often arises when a cat grooms himself and the Fel D1 present in his saliva gets on his skin and hair, which, combined with the Fel D1 from sebaceous glands, can mix into a nightmare concoction for allergy sufferers.
There are, of course, some breeds that are said to be hypoallergenic (like the Javanese, and the Oriental Shorthair, for example). Also, it's believed that neutered cats produce less Fel D1 than cats that are not neutered, and that male cats (particularly those that are unneutered), produce more Fel D1 than female cats do.
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When it comes to cat dandruff, however, causes for that can range from dry air or parasites to obesity, or even serious diseases, like skin cancer. That's why it's always best to visit your vet at the first sign of dandruff, so you can have your cat's skin analyzed and figure out a solution.
Do I Still Need to Groom My Cat?
Although your cat will do a great job trying to clean herself, in most cases, you'll still need to chip in. Check with your vet about your cat's specific grooming needs based on her breed and coat length. Once that's done, there are all kinds of helpful products out there (like towelettes and sprays and brushes, oh my!) to make the grooming process as stress-free as possible.
If you find that you have allergies related to your cat, it's best to let someone else, or even a groomer, handle the cleaning of your cat.
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