Be it dry food, moist food, or a piece of chicken I throw to them. They do it for about 30 to 60 seconds.

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Cats basically live repeating the usual sequence: hunting (identify the prey, follow, chase, kill bite, dissect, ingest), grooming, sleeping.

So it is normal behaviour for a cat to clean himself after eating and before sleeping.

Even when they don't have obvious leftover food on their paws or face they clean their face by first licking their paws and then cleaning their face with their paws (and then cleaning their paws again - having wet paws helps to clean the face).

It is also worth noting that the absence of grooming or excessive grooming can be pathological and you should consult your vet if you notice drastic change in your cat's grooming behaviour.


When cleaning the face and head, the cat dampens the paw and rubs it on the head and face to transfer dirt to the paw, where it can be licked off easier.

  • I think it's the other way around actually, the cat wets her paw in order to clean better his head afterwards. Sep 3 '14 at 11:31

I was thinking it was some kind of instinct. In the wild they would have killed prey, and would have dirty paws from catching,killing, and eating a dead animal. Other than that idea, I don't know...still researching

  • Hi, and welcome! I feel this doesn't really add to the accepted answer. You could add what the advantages are of having clean paws in the wild, if you know that or can find it. Apr 14 '15 at 5:26
  • From what I understand, the reason why cats like to be clean (and dogs like to roll in stinky stuff) are both related to an instinct that makes them try to be harder to smell (or at least less threating a smell) by prey animals. Cats smell less like mouse blood, and dogs smell like horse poop and not like dogs. Jul 30 '16 at 8:15

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