The 10 Cleanest Animals in the World

It's common to observe a cat licking its fur to keep it clean and soft. However, it isn't the only animal that spends time grooming itself. Here are the cleanest of them all.
The 10 Cleanest Animals in the World
Georgelin Espinoza Medina

Written and verified by the biologist Georgelin Espinoza Medina.

Last update: 21 May, 2023

Animal behavior is very diverse and fascinating, with a vast range of behavior, ranging from gentleness to extreme aggression. Although we may think that grooming habits are only present in the lives of humans, there are also other animals that are concerned about their cleanliness and that of their environment. Which do you think are the cleanest animals in the world?

Animal behavior related to cleanliness include grooming habits, bathing in water, or with other substances, and keeping a tidy environment, among others. The interesting thing is that they’re present in all kinds of species, from invertebrates to vertebrates. Here we’ll bring you a list of the 10 cleanest animals, whose behavior is quite amazing, don’t miss it!

What are the cleanest animals in the world?

Many members of the animal kingdom are concerned about their cleanliness. However, in this article, we’re going to mention ten of them.

1. Cats, one of the cleanest animals

The best way to start this list is with cats. It’s no secret that these cute felines spend much of their time grooming themselves. To do this, they use their tongues to remove dirt and dead hair.

The cat’s tongue is an organ covered with papillae that has a hollow cavity at its tip to collect saliva from the mouth and distribute it throughout the body. In this creative way, they comb and groom their fur to maintain hygiene and beauty.

In addition, this sophisticated method is present in other felines. Scientific studies show that we can also find it in wild animals such as the lion (Panthera leo), the puma (Puma concolor), the snow panther (Panthera uncia), the tiger (Panthera tigris), and the bobcat (Lynx rufus).

2. Ants, experts in grooming and organization

Although it may seem strange, another of the cleanest animals in the world is the ant. These small invertebrates regularly clean their face, antennae, and the rest of their body with the help of their legs or a partner, thanks to small hairs on their limbs.

Ants also keep their nests very organized and structured. For example, the Indian jumping ant (Harpegnathos saltator) has been reported to have a special chamber for waste (which is occupied by dipteran and isopod larvae). In this way, the rest of their bodies are kept clear and free of pathogens.

3. Dolphins, one of the cleanest aquatic animals

One of the cleanest animals.

Another of the cleanest animals is the dolphin, thanks to their always smooth and shiny appearance. These cetaceans have a skin that is replaced frequently, as an adaptation to aquatic life. This constant renewal gives them a hydrodynamic benefit by maintaining a smooth, clean surface that offers minimal frictional resistance.

Dolphins’ skin helps them move quickly through the water. In turn, natural exfoliation keeps them disease-free; an interesting and amazing fact about these aquatic mammals.

4. Rabbits, always concerned about their fur

The rabbit is a very social and intelligent animal that cares about its appearance, which is why it deserves a place on this list. It frequently grooms its cute fur to keep it clean and smooth, all in its place.

The only way it can look dirty and unkempt is because of stress or illness. So, if you have one as a pet pay close attention to its hygiene behavior, as it’s a very clean and tidy animal.

5. Songbirds

Other animals that are very concerned about cleanliness and order are the so-called songbirds (Passeriformes), very obsessed with the cleanliness of their nests. Because of this, they constantly remove all the dirt and waste from uneaten food, dead chicks, and fecal sacs.

This sanitation behavior helps to keep the nests dry and free of pathogens. In this way, chicks suffer less from disease. In addition, it’s thought to help prevent brood parasitism and keep predators away; a very productive strategy for successful breeding.

Many birds frequently take baths to clean themselves. They can be of water, dust or some other foreign substances such as ants. The latter in particular, allow the body of the animals to be impregnated with chemicals secreted by these insects (such as formic acid), and thus eliminate (thanks to their properties) external parasites, pests, bacteria, and fungi.

Birds perform the ant bath by rubbing the insects against their plumage or by standing on ant nests. They may also employ other animals such as millipedes, mollusks, or plants; a very ingenious solution to maintain hygiene.

6. Squirrels

This list isn’t complete without squirrels, especially the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). This species eliminates parasites and dirt by constantly preening, licking, and chewing its body parts. It also employs its claws to scratch the most difficult-to-access areas.

7. Penguins, animals with a special cleanliness

Some penguins.

Penguins are very particular birds, as they have wings and don’t fly, instead using them to swim. These animals also dedicate time to their grooming and personal care. In particular, grooming is performed with sebaceous secretions from the uropygial gland they have near the cloaca, i.e., at the base of the tail.

The behavior includes picking up these waxy substances with the help of the beak and applying them to the rest of the body. In this way, they spread it on their plumage in order to obtain a waterproofing effect, very useful when submerging in water.

The uropygial gland is present in most birds. However, in aquatic birds it reaches its maximum development.

This grooming behavior is also observed in other species such as ducks and geese.

8. Monkeys, grooming in groups

Primates are very social animals and are concerned about their hygiene. It’s common to observe them grooming each other to eliminate parasites. This behavior goes beyond simple grooming, as it has a connection to the organization and relationships between members of a group.

9. Polar bears

The polar bear is another interesting animal when it comes to cleanliness. After hunting and feeding, they spend part of their time removing the remains of prey from their bodies. They may rub their snouts and claws against the snow or roll in it.

They also like to take dips in the water to refresh and clean themselves, as they’re excellent swimmers. In addition, the mothers are responsible for helping the cubs groom themselves.

10. Deer, concerned about parasites

Although grooming behavior isn’t as prevalent in ruminants as in cervids, it’s good to include them as animals that are concerned about parasites in their fur. This is because the non-presence of ticks has been related to a higher frequency of grooming in order to reduce and eliminate them. Similarly, these habits are common in fawns.

We end our list of the cleanest animals in the world, although there are many animals we have missed off due to lack of space. Some are truly fascinating and serve a whole variety of important functions, not only related to parasite reduction and hygiene. Undoubtedly, the habits and behaviors of living beings never stop surprising us.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.