Have you ever seen your cat lick their paws and body and wondered what the reason is? It turns out that they don’t just do it to be clean. Besides being dedicated to a regular grooming routine, the licking behaviour is also tied to your kitty’s physical and emotional well-being.
Cats typically spend between 30 and 50 percent of their day grooming themselves. The evaporating saliva helps cats cool off when they are overheated. Licking their paws provides the added benefit of cooling relief in high temperatures. One other reason that cats lick themselves is that licking — and grooming in general — releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormone. So, it’s a calming activity.
But if your cat is paying too much attention to their paws or any other part of their body, it likely indicates an underlying medical issue. Instead of trying to stop the habit, bring your kitty to the vet to identify and treat the issue. There are several physical and psychological issues that can lead to excessive grooming which include allergies, fleas, dry skin, neurological condition, stress or anxiety.
Causes of cat anxiety include being separated from their pet parent, environmental changes like moving into a new home, and perceived threats such as having another pet in the household.
If you think their behaviour is excessive, keep a close eye on your cat. Note any changes to their skin or fur, such as irritation or hair loss. Additionally, check for any signs of pain. If you notice any of these changes make sure to bring them in to their veterinarian.
At the appointment, your vet will do a complete physical examination of your cat. They may run a few tests to help determine the cause. Treatment will vary based on what your veterinarian diagnoses, but may include skin cream or shampoos, oral or injected anti-inflammatory medicine, changes to your cat’s food, flea and tick prevention medicine, pheromone therapy or environmental modifications. Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicine may also be an option in some cases.
Environmental modifications offer your cat the opportunity to get more activity and stimulation inside the house. This can be as simple as feeding them using a food puzzle, providing them more opportunities to utilise their climbing instincts by installing cat trees or shelves, and having them hunt for their toys.