While it may not always show, most animals are actually very clean creatures. Each species has a grooming routine based on its needs. For example, rhinos and elephants might look dirty because they cover their backs in dirt and mud. This protective layer is actually vital in protecting the animals’ skin and keeping flies away!
Human clean and animal clean can have different meanings. Remember that animals spend their lives in the wild, full of dirt, debris, and pests. Our indoor homes and workplaces allow us to keep up lives that are visibly “cleaner”. That doesn’t mean that animals don’t have their own practices to maintain clean living areas and practicing personal hygiene.
I would dare say that every animal could make this list. Even those animals that get messy eventually clean themselves up. These 8 animals have particularly clean tendencies.
This might seem like an obvious choice, but cats really are some of the cleanest animals. Both housecats and wild cats spend large chunks of their days grooming themselves. Barbs on their tongues allow them to comb through their fur. They can quickly remove any dead skin cells, dirt, debris, and even pests.
Some breeds of house cats, including maine coons, manx, and bengals, actually enjoy a nice bath from time to time. Some big cat species, including tigers and jaguars, also partake in the occasional swim. Getting in the water is a great way for big cats to cool off and they get the benefit of a thorough soaking. After shaking off the water, you’ll see these creatures using their tongues to finish grooming.
House cats also have the added ability to be litter box trained. Big cats in human care can also accomplish the same training, but it is usually not necessary. Litter box training means that the cat’s waste and urine can be contained and removed from a singular spot. So not only do cats keep their bodies clean, but they also keep their space clean.
2. Polar Bears
There are some intense photos of polar bears covered in blood after hunting and eating. These photos evoke a lot of emotion and are commonly used for articles talking about polar bears.
This blood, and any other debris that gets onto a polar bear, must be cleaned off. Living in some of the coldest environments, polar bears rely on their thick fur as insulation. In order for the fur to act as insulation, it must be perfectly clean and unobstructed. Matted fur filled with dried blood or debris can leave the bear’s skin vulnerable to cold temperatures. Polar bears like to jump in the water or roll in the snow to clean off.
Songbirds are a large group of animals, but one thing they have in common is being clean freaks about their nests. Young chicks eat a lot and that in turn leads to a lot of fecal matter. The feathered parents will carry these fecal sacs far away from the nest. Additionally, they will remove eggshells, uneaten food, and dead chicks. By keeping the nest clean, it is harder for predators to detect the location of the chicks.
Not all birds show these same clean tendencies. Many aquatic birds, like pelicans, will continuously defecate on and around their nest. Since they build their nests in open, communal locations, they are not concerned with hiding from predators. They are more worried about protecting their eggs and chicks, which is why they can’t be bothered to use the bathroom in a separate location.
In addition to keeping the nests clean, songbirds also keep themselves clean. Feathers need to be free of dirt and debris for birds to be able to fly properly. Birds will alternate between dust baths and water baths depending on what is available. Birdbaths can be a helpful addition to your garden to help these birds keep their feathers in tip-top shape. You can also provide a dust bowl filled with fine-grain dirt for the birds to enjoy.
Pigs originally had a reputation for being dirty animals. Your parents may have even called your room a “pigsty” when you didn’t clean up. Unfortunately, this dirty stereotype only happened because humans were keeping pigs in small spaces on farms. It was actually the humans’ fault that the pigs ended up being dirty. Wild pigs have never been viewed as unclean animals.
When given the appropriate environment and amount of space, pigs are quite clean. An internet search will show you that pigs now have the reputation of being the cleanest animal on earth. This distinction comes because they choose to not defecate in areas where they sleep or eat. It is a very clean habit, but it is a habit shared by lots of animals of different species.
Some lucky pigs have even been raised indoors as a house pet. Often sold as “miniature” pot-bellied pigs, these porkers usually end up outgrowing their homes. These pigs don’t actually come in a miniature form, the piglets are just small when they are born. It is their size, not their cleanliness that ends up getting them sent to an outdoor habitat.
Recent studies have shown that rattlesnakes deserve a spot as one of the cleanest animals. They don’t do any particular grooming, but they do clean up their environment. Some species of rattlesnakes will search their territory for the perfect spot to ambush prey. Before they get ready to wait for unsuspecting prey to come by, they will use their head and neck to clear grass and debris from the area.
Scientists are not entirely sure why the rattlesnakes are cleaning up their hunting grounds. One theory is that the snakes only get one opportunity to strike, so they want to remove any potential obstacles. It makes sense that you wouldn’t want anything getting in the way of your next meal.
6. Birds of Paradise
Birds of paradise are famous for their bright-colored feathers and elaborate mating dances. Part of the mating ritual includes the males cleaning up their performance space. These birds leave nothing out of planning the perfect dance for their potential mate.
By cleaning up the area of their performance, they are removing any possible obstacles that could mess up the dance. Additionally, they remove anything that could catch the female’s eye and be a distraction. The male, understandably, wants all eyes on him during his big show.
Ants keep themselves clean and they keep their homes clean. Ants groom themselves regularly using their front legs and oily saliva. The most important part of their body to clean is their antennae. These sensitive appendages help the ants to feel the environment around them. They clean their antennae by licking a hairy spot on their front limbs and then running the limbs over their antennae.
Ants have also been known to remove their dead from the communal areas. This keeps their space free of debris. It also minimizes the potential spread of disease from the dead ants to the live ants. These organized insects take no chances when it comes to keeping their colony safe.
If you look around the top of an ant hill, you may be able to see all the discards from the ants cleaning up. There will most likely be small balls of sand. These balls are formed by the ants combining sand and saliva, making it easier to carry more dirt out of their home. If you look closely, you can also see dead ants and maybe even uneaten food.
8. Naked Mole Rats
You might assume that an animal that spends its life in the dirt underground can’t possibly be clean. Naked mole rats actually take multiple steps to keep themselves and their tunnels clean.
Naked mole rats take the time to groom themselves and their companions. They do not have much hair on their bodies, which means they are less likely to get caked in dirt from their tunnels. These animals also have an adaptation that allows their lips to close behind their incisors. This means that even their mouth stays clean when they use their strong jaws to dig.
Inside their elaborate tunnels, naked mole rats maintain a tidy home. They designate a “room” as a latrine. All the animals will all use this area to defecate. Once it fills up, they will close off the area and dig a new restroom.
Naked mole rats have also been observed eating their own feces. This behavior, known as corporphagy, usually occurs as a way for animals to absorb more nutrients from their food. An added benefit is less waste within their tunnels. It might sound dirty, but by eating their own waste, they are keeping a cleaner home.