Why Do Cats Clean Themselves Before They Sleep?

Have you seen your cat licking itself before bed? If so, you might consider why they do this. 

Well, cats are known as animals that have strange habits; licking is just one of the unique ways that cats groom themselves and it is an important part of their daily routine.

While this behavior might be normal for some reasons, it can cause problems that you should worry about. 

In this article, we’ll explore all the reasons why cats lick themselves before sleeping and what it means for your cat’s health and well-being.

Reasons Why Cats Lick Themselves Before Sleeping?

While your cat licking themselves before sleeping might​ be their normal natural instinct, there are a few reasons why they prefer to do this. 

Grooming: as we know cats are grooming habits. It is normal for them to lick their body as it is a part of their grooming routine. It helps to remove dirt from their fur to keep it clean. 

Reduce stress: this is the best way to help them relax and well prepare for sleep by reducing stress and anxiety.

Comfort activity: this grooming also helps your cat’s comfort as the repetitive motion of licking releases endorphins which are natural feel-good chemicals in the brain. 

Regulate body temperature: cats have a high body temperature, so licking themselves before sleep can help them to create a cooling effect on their skin, especially during a hot session if they feel overheated.

Maintained their fur: Cats are likely to keep themselves clean. By licking themselves before bed because they might want to be sure that their fur or body is clean and without any potential irritants like food particles or foreign smells on them. It is like humans taking a bath before we go to bed.

However, licking before bed is a normal behavior for some cats, but if your cat excessively licks, it can be the cause of their health issues or stress. In this case, your cat can lead to hair loss or skin irritation.

It is important for the owner to monitor your cat’s behavior or grooming habits if you notice any concerns, it is your turn to consult with your vet for a proper evaluation. 

How Often Should Cats Groom Themselves

As we have mentioned, excessive licks can be the cause of their health problems, so you might be concerned about how often your cat should groom themselves.

The frequency of your cat licking themselves may depend on your cat’s individuality such as age, breed, and overall health.

Normally, kittens may spend more frequently on their groom as they are learning to lick or clean themselves, but their grooming habits might change while they are growing up.  

In general, cats should spend between 30% to 50% of their waking hours engaged in their grooming activities.

If your cat grooms themselves more often than this, it can cause your cat to be over-grooming. 

It’s important to monitor them and ask your veterinarian to get the best advice. 

Should You Stop Your Cats from Licking Themselves?

Cats grooming is a natural behavior for them and it is an essential part of their routine, so you should not stop them from doing this. 

Licking can provide them with many benefits and specific reasons such as keeping their fur clean, helping their skin stay cold during summer, providing them with comfortable activity, relaxing, and reducing stress. 

However, there are a few signs that you might need to intervene or seek vet advice: 

Signs of Over-Grooming In cats

Here are several signs that cats may be over-grooming:

Tufts of fur near their rest place

It is the first sign that your cat might be over-grooming if you found their fur near your cat’s resting areas. 

In this case, your cat might not show any sign for you to notice unless you monitor them.

Hair loss 

Excessive licking can cause your cat’s body to develop obvious patches of hair loss, especially on the easy access places such as the belly, inner thighs, or back legs.  As a result, your cat might be bald or the fur appears thin.

Skin Damage

Over-grooming can lead your cat’s skin to become red or crusty. In serious cases, your cat might have sores on its skin, especially in places where your cat has been overly licked or chewed.

Change behavior

Excessive licking also may be linked to your cat’s stress or anxiety.

When your cat is stressed, they prefer to clean themselves since it is the way to make themselves soothe.

In this case, your cat might also change their behavior such as lick themselves more often, yowling, aggressiveness, or retreating. 

Therefore, if you note that your cat is over-grooming, it is important for you to find a way to help them.

It is always the best way to consult with your vet who can provide you with the best idea for your cat’s condition.

When Cats Lick Themselves, Where Does All the Dirt Go?

It is most common for many cat owners to wonder when cats clean themselves, where does the dirt go? In fact, cats lick or clean themselves to collect the dirt and then swallow it. If so, you might still consider that cats can be harmed by swallowing the dirt.

No, cats can swallow or eat the dirt without causing harm as their bodies are made to deal with it.

Cats are passing the dirt through the digestive system and eventually gets eliminated through the cat’s feces. However, not all of the dirt is eliminated through feces; some small particles or hairballs might be expelled through vomiting.

Overall, cats have a self-cleaning process that enables them to clean or maintain their fur and the dirt and debris are through feces or vomiting.

What Does It Mean When Cats Groom Themselves in Front of You?

Cats groom themselves in front of you, it may have a different meaning depending on your cat’s individuality and behavior.

There are some possible reasons that your cat grooms themselves in front of you:

  • Grooming in front of you, can be the way to catch your attention as they prefer care and love from their owner.
  • It’s possible to interpret grooming in front of you as a sign of security and contentment. It means they trust you.
  • It can be a sign that they consider you part of their bond group.
  • It also might be their normal grooming behavior as they groom themselves regularly throughout the day.

Overall, all cats are unique, while grooming can provide them lots of benefits, so your cat might do it even in front of you as it is a natural behavior.


Cats lick themselves before bed because it is the best way to keep their fur clean, relax, reduce their stress, and comfort them. Licking themselves also helps them to regulate their body temperature. 

While it is normal behavior and beneficial for cats, excessive grooming can sometimes be a sign of underlying issues such as hair loss or bald spots, skin issues, and even changing their behavior.  If you notice any of these signs in your cat, you should ask your vet to find out to help your cat’s health and happiness. 

Daney Hak

I’m a passionate cat mom and pet lover. Apart from being a cat owner, I’ve spent many years of my childhood around them. In my experience, I’ve learned the importance of understanding your cat to be able to cater to them adequately. Thank you so much for your time.

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