'Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?'

You can also feed your cat his biggest meal of wet food immediately before your bedtime, to give you a head start and to take advantage of the natural tendency of cats (and people) to feel a little sleepy after a meal.

Q. Do all cats groom themselves or are some cats slobs?

A. Cats like to keep their coat in good shape. In fact, when a cat starts losing interest in grooming, it can be a sign there's something wrong with her, physically. In particular, fat cats have a propensity to become slovenly or they're so huge, like a fur-covered balloon of sorts, they simply can't reach around the curve of their ample bodies to groom.

If your cat looks tired and tattered, take her to the vet.

One of the more interesting things about cats is that most will groom themselves in a particular order. Grooming starts when a cat licks her lips and then wets the side of her paw. She will then run the damp paw over the side of her face and behind her ear (like a washcloth), and then repeat the same sequence on the opposite side.

Next, she'll lick her front legs, shoulders, and flanks. Then it's one leg up and then the other, to get to all those personal spots. The whole thing wraps up with a trip down to the end of the tail.

Kittens get a free ride on grooming until they're about six weeks of age; their moms do all the hard work for them. In fact, for the first few days she even licks their anus. (That should be enough to get her on the TV show Dirty Jobs.) Her job is about more than motherly love and good housekeeping: When kittens are newborns, their mom's tongue is what stimulates them to eliminate.

While all cats try to keep up their appearance, good grooming can be more difficult for older cats, obese cats, and cats with long, silky coats. These cats need help from their owners to maintain that just-licked look. The good news is that grooming your cat can be a pleasurable bonding experience for you both.

Cats lick themselves clean right after dinner because instinct has taught them the sooner they remove food odors, the less likely that predators will get a whiff of McCat.

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