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Cat Licks

An entire Second Chance Humane Society Pet Column dedicated to cat's bathing protocols? Are we trying to run our readers off? Wait, don't go away! I can guarantee you will learn something cool if you stick with me here. For starters, we cats have rather unique bathing routines despite appearing to be random and hapless events. There are years of inherited wisdom behind our cleaning rituals…

Almost all cats clean themselves regularly, but have you noticed that we almost all do it in the same order: paws, sides of face, behind the ears, chest, etc.  Our systematic attention to our hygiene makes sure not grime is left behind and is another reason we make great pets, particularly for those who like tidiness and orderliness.

We are taught our patented cleaning protocol by our mothers (so yes, kittens unfortunate enough to be separated from their mother's at birth do not learn to clean themselves until several months later and usually only by observing cats or kittens that are familiar with the behavior). We are serious and dedicated to our cleanliness, spending about 30-50% of our waking life grooming, but this is not due to vanity...

Have you noticed that after eating, bathing is the first thing we attend to? This is an instinctual habit intended to remove residual scents of our dinner that could attract predators. This is also why new mothers eat placentas and meticulously clean their newborn. It is gross but effective.

Beyond protection, grooming also serves as critical feline temperature control. During hot weather our saliva acts as a cooling mechanism (other than through our paws we don't really sweat much like humans do) and serves as one third of our cooling process via the evaporation of our saliva from our fur. In the cooler months our freshly licked fur is aided by the natural oils from the glands of our skin to insulate our bodies from the cold. I would not recommend human’s trying this system for temperature control.

Additionally, it is believed that our saliva contains enzymes that act as an antibiotic to wounds that we lick while additionally removing invading parasites from such wounds. Licking also helps to relax us, which is why, after any kind of trauma, physical or emotional, we literally or figuratively will be seen “licking our wounds", again, not recommended for humans.

But my favorite application of the diverse repertoire of licking is to express affection toward one of my cat friends here at the shelter or for people that I have bonded with or accepted into my "home turf". I mean, we don't just love-lick anyone… so consider yourself special to be licked by a cat - we tend to be selective you know.

In closing, if you are looking for a young, lovely (inside and out) cat who is a cleaning machine with natural self-protection, self-temperature regulation, and germ fighting skills who will honor you with affectionate licks (when the mood is right) call Second Chance to learn more about me, Mulan. I get along well with other cats and don’t mind dogs (even though they are not nearly as clean as the feline species). I am an independent girl looking for a forever home who loves attention but does not demand it.

 Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have been servicing San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties for 27 years. Call 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about our Emergency Response, Community Medical, Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, or other services. View our shelter pets and services online: www.adoptmountainpets.org.

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops service San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 970-626-2273 to report a lost pet or to learn about adopting a homeless pet and the SCHS spay/neuter, volunteer, feral cat or other programs. View our shelter pets and services at adoptmountainpets.org.

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