Are cats clean or filthy? On the one hand, they lick themselves and self-groom (clean) but they do so after licking their anus (thus actually filthy). But apparently their saliva contains some antibacterial chemical or something so they are in fact clean, so we’re back at square one. Are cats clean?

Having a hard time deciding whether cats are clean or dirty animals. They are certainly cleaner than dogs, who roll around in dirt and feces every day, but whether cats are clean or dirty is more difficult to see (indoor cats in particular) which can lead to several health implications. In this post, I’m mostly referring to neutered, indoor cats. Intact male cats for example may spray urine, etc. to mark territory among other things which is not relevant to me.

If cats are clean, I don’t have to worry much about them walking around the house and being on my furniture, bed, etc., while if their fur is actually just covered in a layer of their own feces, that has a lot of bacterial concerns.

Personally my cats seem extremely clean (they don’t smell at all, they wipe their paws and lick them clean after using the litterbox which I scoop out daily or at least once every other day, they’re constantly self-grooming, and mine have never sprayed or coughed up hairballs in the 2 years I’ve had them). And they actually have 0 odor, and I’ve bathed them like twice in the 2 years that I’ve had them (and most cat owners do the same). They are both neutered. So I believed that cats are probably one of the cleanest animals in the world. Some people say that cats smell really bad or that your house will smell like cat piss or something and I literally have no idea what they’re talking about since in my personal experience it’s the exact opposite. Neither my cats nor my house smell at all, and I’ve confirmed this with many guests and friends who have said that they don’t smell a thing (including my 4 best friends who I know for certain aren’t afraid to tell me if my house smells like cat piss).

But the other day I was having a discussion with my friend who said that cats first of all lick their anus and then lick their body with the same tongue, that their tongues themselves are a bacterial wonderland (which then goes to you when they lick you, etc.), and that there will still be traces of waste on their paws even after they wipe them on the wall after using the litterbox. All of these points also make sense to me, which would then make cats dirty. That contradicts my anecdotal evidence based belief that cats are clean.

I’ve heard about how cats’ tongues have a chemical that acts as an anti-bacterial substance and also neutralizes odor, etc. which in fact does make them clean, but does anyone know exactly what that chemical is called, and is it actually effective as a kind of “soap”? Or are they really just spreading their own feces all over their body? But this doesn’t seem to make sense because their feces has their scent and the whole evolutionary point of licking themselves is to get rid of that scent to hide from predators.

Things like Toxoplasmosis doesn’t really matter since there are no obvious or observable effects in adults other than a slight correlation with more risk taking behavior.

Sorry if my details are extremely unorganized, but can someone help me out with this question?

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