How to get my cat to clean himself?
December 7, 2007 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to encourage a cat to be a better self-groomer?

One of our cats obsessively cleans herself, and the other never even licks his paws clean. The problem is he's pretty stinky and we have to use cat wipes at least once a day. I can't help but think there's something a little off about him, and would like to encourage him to be more cat-like.
posted by Rae Datter to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you taken the cat for a checkup at the vet? It's pretty unusual for them not to groom, but they won't if they're sick or depressed or stressed out.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not grooming is one of the first signs something is wrong.
posted by fire&wings at 10:09 AM on December 7, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, he's fine. He had some problems earlier this year with crystals, but he's always been like this. We actually checked into that kind of thing with the vet, but his attitude otherwise is pretty healthy- not nervous or anything.
posted by Rae Datter at 10:10 AM on December 7, 2007

We have a male cat who is like this as well. We have attributed it to the fact that he would like his harem of five female cats to lick him clean. I mean, who wouldn't?

Unfortunately, they are having none of it. We've taken to bathing him along with the hairless cat.
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:26 AM on December 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Might be one of those weird social order cat things. Are you sure that the tidy cat isn't grooming the messy cat, even just on a cursory level?

We were in a similar situation and puzzled over it too, until one day we walked in on the tidy cat literally holding down the messy one and washing her. It was obvious he'd been doing it for a long time, it was tough work, and it was something neither cat had wanted the humans to see.

For what it's worth, it wasn't until after the tidy cat died (not of exhaustion, amazingly) that the messy one started grooming herself in front of us at a regular interval.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:29 AM on December 7, 2007 [6 favorites]

I'm not a cat person, so just going out on a limb here. But maybe your cat lacks enough outlet for its hunting instinct, which could maybe lead to her giving up on grooming herself, as she has no need to be extra sneaky and scent free to stalk her prey. So perhaps getting some good toys that will encourage her to be sneaky and predatory would get her to get back into the whole cleaning bit some more.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2007

If he was taken away from his mother too early he wouldn't know how to groom himself. Since he's always been that way I'd assume that's the issue.

Some cats never get the hang of grooming. It might help him if the clean kitty starts bathing him but if that's not already happening I wouldn't hold your breath that it will occur.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:31 AM on December 7, 2007

Cats are weird.

I suppose you could try pouring tuna water on him to see if that'd spur him on to do some licking. (Worst-case scenario: meh, you'll have to bathe him anyway.)
posted by desuetude at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know how to make him groom himself, but we have learned that if we hold one of our kitties up to the other, the "free" one will immediately start grooming the "held" one. It's like a sick, crazy compulsion, but it's always fascinated me how BOTH of them do it WITHOUT fail. And they usually have nothing to do with each other.
posted by tastybrains at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, I mentioned that anecdote but I forgot to add the suggestion that you hold Stinky up to Tidy and see if she'll do the work for you.
posted by tastybrains at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2007

Does he have greasy fur or dandruff or anything otherwise icky about his coat? If so, switching to a better-quality food might help him feel more like grooming himself (since his coat won't be so gross). Also, smelling bad (unless it's uncleaned-butt bad smell) is not generally normal, so another vet check might be warranted (as is consulting a cat-experienced vet who understands cat behaviour and/or a behaviourist). But, assuming he's healthy, unfortunately, part of what makes cats so neat is that they're all individuals, and part of that individuality can be a lack of good personal hygiene, and there's not much you can do about that. I would start brushing him regularly, maybe even consider giving him a bath (cat wipes do leave residue which may be contributing to his disinclination to wash himself) and maybe try to think of him as your furry little stereotypical computer geek (NOT GEEKIST).
posted by biscotti at 4:27 PM on December 7, 2007

Heh heh I have the identical thing at my house! He gets this funk that starts to take over my room. Ick!! He smells a bit like nasty old socks...

So ick! Anyway I think the problem is he also tastes as bad as he smells...

I have noticed that my stinky little man gets 'house proud' about his fur after I've given him a good scrubbing. No amount of licking is going to shift that and if he isn't too bothered about it too begin with... But if he's all nice and clean he might feel he can handle it after all.

Another bonus is it's pretty likely that the moment he does not taste nasty she will pitch in too. But eventually the funk creeps back. I don't know what a cat wipe is but sounds like he needs a scrub. Loopy has one of those dish scrubbers that looks like a barbie sized mop. For some reason he really likes it (not the washing - the little mop) it soothes him. Big fat paint brushes are good too.

I'm sorry I'm not the only one with a stinky little beast! But just wash him, it makes a massive difference. (He'll be washed 2 or 3 times at least before I bother washing her as well. Ick.)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 6:56 PM on December 7, 2007

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