Comparing humans and other mammals in terms of cleanliness

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Here's a bit of nonsense to kick off the New Year.

Are we the cleanest mammal? Do we bath less than a rat? Is this the most pointless list you'll read all day? Let's find out….

List of six mammals in chronological order of cleanliness

Cats Cleaning

1. Cats

Most cats may not be a fan of water and probably don't appreciate us trying to bath them. However, they don't need our help or prompts to clean as they spend a great deal of time doing this themselves. Cats can spend '15 to 50 percent' of their day grooming themselves.1 This is considerably more time than we spend cleaning ourselves per day. Yes, we obviously wash our hands after toilet visits and before eating but this would add up to a small proportion of our day in total (for most of us). Cats can be quite thorough with their grooming but may require the assistance of another cat for those harder to reach areas.

Rats cleaning

2. Rats

Yes, some rodents may have trouble controlling their continence but the irony is that they are actually prolific self cleaners (and you can train them to use a litter tray!). Some humans do help pet rats out a little in this area and many pet rat owners bathe their rats if they are dirty for whatever reason. Left to their own devices, rats do groom themselves very regularly. They do not like to be unclean and will often clean themselves straight away if anything happens to have caused them to become dirty.2

Obviously, due to their often unsanitary environment, wild rats will find it more difficult to stay clean than fancy rats. To be honest, rats groom and clean themselves considerably more than humans do so next time rats as a species are 'dragged through the mud' so to speak for being unclean, remember that they wash more than you.

Horses cleaning

3. Horses

Wild horses (in particular) do tend to groom each other but aside from this, their way of 'cleaning' themselves seems to be to roll around on the ground. This may be down to the fact that that they have no means of using their limbs to clean themselves. Horses sometimes partake in rolling around in mud which may be because they genuinely see this as a cleaning regime. I personally believe that it's because they want their humans to wash them and are dropping a really big hint. This also leads me to believe that horses are geniuses and have effectively managed to manipulate us into becoming their grooming assistants. You can't blame them, if you can't wash yourself, find someone who can and who doesn't fancy a pamper now and again? In fact horses are groomed pretty frequently (daily in some cases) even if it is nothing to do with their own personal efforts. So by default, well looked after horses tend to be fairly clean. Yes, they've cheated so they are hovering around the middle of the list.

Humans

4. Humans

So here we are near the bottom of the pack. If we were a football team, we'd be relegated.

For those of us lucky enough to have access to clean, safe and plumbed water, we are cleaner than ever before. Add to this, our vast choice of shampoos, exfoliators and other personal hygiene products, it appears that a plain bar of soap no longer meets our standards.

In Ancient and classical times, bathing was a sophisticated business. The Ancient Greeks invented the shower, the Romans were brilliant at indoor plumbing and public bath houses were all the rage.4

So cleanliness and the desire to practice hygiene is definitely not just a modern concern.

Nowadays, dependent on circumstance or habit, most people wash every day in one way or another.

In terms of showering and not just washing hands / face, a recent survey found that four out of five women questioned don't shower daily with a third saying that they may go three days without a shower.5 Other studies have found that most of us do shower on a daily basis with one survey finding that three quarters of respondents showered or bathed at least once per day.

Then again, in contradiction to this, a poll of 2,000 adults by Late Rooms in 2015, came up with this info:

"it turns out we skip showers and baths altogether an average of 111 times per year – that adds up to three months spent without a proper wash."6

In fact, there are lots of survey results out there that seem to differ greatly on this subject.

So are we shower dodgers or overzealous bathers? It seems that we can't decide.

Whether showering very often is healthy is up for debate, some experts believe that over washing can be damaging for the skin with others suggesting that we bathe more than necessary.7

With all that being said, we probably should have placed higher than horses.

Whales

5.Whales

Yes this one's a bit left field but it ticks the mammal box. Ok, bear with me here. I know what you're thinking. Whales live in water, therefore they are pretty much perpetually taking a bath. However, depending on the type of whale, they can be overrun with parasites such as barnacles and whale lice. It is thought that some whales exhibit an attempt to 'clean themselves' and remove parasites. Dislodging and removing parasites is one suggested reason for 'beach rubbing'. This is a behaviour in which whales rub themselves on a rough / frictional surface such as gravel. There are also theories that part of the reason why whales breach the water is to assist in removing troublesome parasites. 3 So in the absence of a loofah, they make do with what they've got. In the interest of scientific disclosure, I'd like to point out here, that there are also other suggested reasons for both breaching and beach rubbing.

Dogs

6. Dogs

Due to the muddy scrapes that our canine friends often get themselves into, dogs tend to get mucky quite frequently. Dogs do groom themselves but due to how caked in mud some pups can become, this most often isn't enough. This means that they regularly need some form of bath. A dog may take it upon itself to run through water on a woodland walk or on the beach but this is really only a temporary measure. Additional human assistance is often required in the form of a thorough wash in a bath tub. Working dogs and dogs with skin issues are most likely to require regular bathing. Also, dependent on their coat, dogs may also need help with grooming hence why dog grooming is a big business.

Dogs are lovely. In fact they are so lovely that they are often referred to as our best friend but they are not the cleanest of animals. They enjoy their mud and other not so clean substrates and 'deposits' (most dog owners know what I'm talking about here) and they need some help from us. But let's face it, they are just adventurous and don't have the ability to clean themselves like we do so we shouldn't judge.

So there you have it, 6 random mammal species listed in order of cleanliness. So what have we learnt?

Cats are super fastidious when it comes to cleaning themselves. Dogs are cute but need to up their grooming game and we can't decide if we are too clean or not clean enough.

In conclusion: are rats cleaner than us? Probably.

Disclaimer: This is not very scientific. It's just for fun.

References:

1. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-cat-groom-excessively
2. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/5-facts-that-will-change-the-way-you-think-about-rats
3. http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=682
4. http://www.medicaldaily.com/brief-history-bathing-importance-hygiene-ancient-romes-sophisticated-showers-modern-364826
5. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/healthy-living/how-often-should-you-be-showering-a6819486.html
6. http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/wellbeing/grubby-britons-are-a-nation-of-shower-skippers-survey-reveals-11363953648689
7. http://time.com/4259559/shower-soap-hygiene/

General references

http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/simple-tricks-to-make-dogs-bath-time-easier-faster-and-neater
https://www.petmd.com/dog/grooming/how-often-should-you-bathe-your-dog
http://www.thehorse.com/articles/10028/grooming-your-horse-deep-down-clean

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