The organization and control of grooming in cats

Robert A. Eckstein, Benjamin Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Grooming in small felids has received little attention compared with grooming in rodents, bovids and primates where grooming is also common. This study set out to describe the general pattern, time budget and degree of cephalocaudal sequencing of self-oral grooming in the domestic cat. In 11 cats confined for the purposes of videotaping, sleeping and resting accounted for 50% of the time budget. Oral grooming, 91% of which was to multiple body regions, accounted for 4% of the overall time budget or 8% of non-sleeping/resting time. Scratch grooming, always directed to single regions, occupied about 1/50 of the time of oral grooming. There was a moderate and significant cephalocaudal trend to grooming. An increased likelihood for oral grooming to follow periods of sleep or rest was indicated by a significant negative correlation between sleep/rest duration and latency to the subsequent grooming bout. The effect of enforced deprivation of grooming on the subsequent occurrence of grooming was explored by the 3-day application of Elizabethian collars, which prevented oral grooming or control collars that did not prevent grooming. In the 12 h immediately after removal of the Elizabethian collars, oral grooming increased by 67% and scratch grooming by 200% compared with the grooming rate after removal of control collars. By the second 12 h, the apparent catch-up effect of grooming had disappeared. The occurrence of cephalocaudally-directed, multiple-region oral grooming and deprivation-enhanced grooming would appear to represent aspects of a central control mechanism for the organization and regulation of grooming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2000


  • Cats
  • Fleas
  • Grooming behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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