cat cleaning itself

Are Cats Cleaner Than Dogs? Surprising Facts

When it comes to stereotyping animals in media, dogs are always messy, and cats are always clean freaks when they don’t act like royalty that expect to be pampered all the time.

Now while we might get a good laugh out of these deceptions, just how accurate is it? Are cats cleaner than dogs? Or is this just a myth such as dogs having cleaner mouths?

The truth isn’t as clear cut as you’d expect, as “cleanliness” in both dogs and cats isn’t the same as with us humans. In fact, sometimes being a bit dirty is completely normal for both a dog and cat.

dog lying on rug

So, Are Cats Cleaner Than Dogs? Yes. Cats are cleaner than dogs. A cat may spend as much as fifty perfect of their waking hours meticulously grooming themselves or others. A dog, meanwhile, will lick their paws and their privates, but not much else. Some breeds of dog like the Shiba Inu, do exhibit similar grooming practices to cats, but for most, they’re perfectly fine being dirty.

If you’re looking for a pet that cleans itself, look no further than a cat! Of course, as mentioned at the start of this article, the answer isn’t as clear-cut once you delve into it.

Why Are Cats Cleaner Than Dogs?

Let’s look at the real reason cats are the cleaner animal. Is it because they just hate dirt?

Well, yes, they do but at the same time, cats don’t have an understanding of “cleanliness” like humans. The same reason why they don’t understand the concept of a house plant isn’t something to chew on. The grooming behavior of a cat runs much deeper than just being clean.

For starters, let’s look at the tongue of a cat. It’s barbed, which is perfect for working through their hairs. The barbed tongue removes dead skin, loose hair, parasites, and even promotes healing of wounds.

Hence the old phrase “licking their wounds”, which works great for cats. So their tongue does a great deal of work keeping their body free of dirty, dead skin and hair, along with fleas and ticks.

They’re also flexible, able to reach any part of their body for grooming. This is opposed to dogs who are much more ridged and who aren’t able to lick themselves clean. Even if they could, their tongues aren’t barbed for dead skin and hair will get trapped in their coats.


In the wild, the ancestors of dogs would roam in packs and would assist in grooming one another, along with having coats that were easier to groom.

Due to thousands of years of breeding by humans, modern day domesticated dogs just don’t have that ability to be as clean anymore. Cats, on the other hand, do despite humans having also bred them for thousands of years.

That being said, the tongue of the cat isn’t only for cleaning. It also serves for socializing and for providing their own, natural “perfume”.

Cats will lick and groom one another, and you, as a show of bonding. Grooming cats are known to be much more closer than cats that don’t groom one another, and if your cat is licking and grooming you that’s a good sign that they like you!

Even as kittens, the tongue plays an important part in the life of a cat. The mother cat will like their kittens to simulate expelling waste, to simulate appetite to suckle, and of course for cleaning.

As for the oils, cats much like dogs, use scent in their day-to-day lives. Whereas dogs will mark territory with urine, cats essentially cover themselves in their own scent which is why they’ll rub up against something they claim or leave scratches. This moves their oil, or perfume as some like to call it, off of themselves, and to the object they wish to mark.

Because this oil doesn’t naturally return to a cat’s coat, they need to apply it daily. Which is the other reason why they groom themselves so frequently; restoring the oil back to their coat, which they then use to mark their territory or place claim to objects or people.

two ginger cats

Can Cats Be Too Clean?

Yes. While cats are well known for grooming, there is such a thing as too much grooming. Either due to a medical condition or anxiety, a cat can continuously lick itself or certain spots until the hair is gone.

Dogs can be like this too, and with both species, excess licking not only leads to bald spots but also infections. So if your cat is grooming too much, contact your vet and see if there is an underlining medical condition.

Can The Cleanliness Of A Cat Benefit You?

Cats are cleaner than dogs, but what does this mean for you? Well, for a start there are less frequent bathes for a cat compared to a dog. Dogs need their owners to assist in grooming, including brushing and bathing, and while cats don’t need as frequent bathes they will need to be brushed. Either daily for cats with longer-or-medium coats, and once a week for short-haired breeds.

Because they still have coats that shed, both cats and dogs aren’t going to be a good match for anyone with allergies to pet hair. No matter how much grooming is done by either you or your pet.

And finally, while a cat might keep their coat clean as best as they can, the same can’t be said for their mouths which do require you to brush their teeth least they develop infections or bad breath.

Final Thoughts

A cat is certainly a cleaner animal than a dog, and less likely to drag mud into the house unless you have an outdoor cat, but this cleanliness doesn’t mean spotless and never smelly.

You’ll still need to help them out in that regard, and some breeds of cats will even require more maintenance with grooming and bathing than dogs! For cats though, grooming isn’t just for cleaning, but instead important for their bonding and marking behavior.

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