Cat licking himself during zoomies
April 17, 2021 6:22 PM   Subscribe

When my cat is in the midst of the wildest of his zoomies, he often interrupts his fervor to lick himself, often his chest. Why? Is this common?

I'm fine if the answer is "cats are weird", but I'm honestly so curious. How is this adaptive behaviour? Why would he do this in the middle of play or hunting? I've seen a few other cats do this so I know it's not unheard of, but is it really common?
posted by Paper rabies to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my experience it's perfectly normal for a cat to suddenly stop whatever it's doing and randomly groom itself, whether during the crazy zoom part of the day or just in general.

I have direct experience with 4 cats in the last decade, and all of them did this. Different breeds ages etc.
posted by tiamat at 6:36 PM on April 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Grooming emergencies are hard-coded into the feline genome.
posted by Dashy at 6:37 PM on April 17, 2021 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Cats gotta cat; it's perfectly normal.

My theory is that it's showcasing a lack of fear in the face of imagined adversaries, and I will spare you my three thousand word treatise of amateur behavioral ecology and ethnography on the topic.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:38 PM on April 17, 2021 [18 favorites]

I've lived with cats who have done something similar. I think it's normal. I think if people were covered in fur, we'd probably have fewer qualms about stopping everything to "adjust," as it were.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:51 PM on April 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've heard it's a calming response in cats, they will do it when over stimulated.
posted by nickggully at 7:01 PM on April 17, 2021 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Displacement activity
posted by phoenixy at 7:04 PM on April 17, 2021 [13 favorites]

All my cats have done this.
posted by signsofrain at 7:05 PM on April 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I love it when my cat does this. Charging across the room to the toy I'm dangling, fueled by millions of years of evolution into the perfect tiny killing machine, then: "Oh, I have a spot on my coat, how disgusting" and he just pulls up and brushes it off, like a cartoon comic book villain.
posted by mark k at 7:18 PM on April 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A friend once told me that cat saliva is a concentrated source of dignity. When a cat does something particularly foolish it must stop and reapply.
posted by arrmatie at 7:23 PM on April 17, 2021 [67 favorites]

Yes, one of my cats will, in the midst of or just after zooming and other energetic behavior, suddenly stop and groom himself extremely vigorously. It's comical how rapidly and emphatically he does it... like there's a spot right THERE that definitely needs deep cleaning RIGHT NOW. I would definitely buy the idea that it's a self-soothing thing.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:38 PM on April 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify - I'm not concerned about the behaviour! I'm mostly hung up on "why?". Any educated (or wildly speculative) guesses are most welcome.
posted by Paper rabies at 12:23 AM on April 18, 2021

I've always thought that it was because they have an itch and licking is a way of scratching it.
posted by mezzanayne at 1:41 AM on April 18, 2021

In our house we call it “cleaning off the embarrassment,” like arrmatie, we’ve noticed that our cat does it after she’s done something less than becoming of a sleek assassin.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:07 AM on April 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My theory from watching my cats playing together is that it's a way to pretend like you're not hunting your opponent (real or imagined). Big movement, then groom to say: not stalking you! Not stalking you! (Totally stalking you.)
posted by wotsac at 10:03 AM on April 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

Both of my cats definitely do that, although I have no idea why. 'tis not ours to reason why, etc etc
posted by Juffo-Wup at 10:54 AM on April 18, 2021

I thought grooming was a pre-hunting behavior. Perhaps to clean off scents that would alert the prey?
posted by RoadScholar at 4:32 PM on April 18, 2021

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