What Is the Cleanest Animal on Earth?
While some people think all animals are dirty, many are surprisingly clean and even tidy. Many have special coats or other abilities that help keep them clean, while others just put in the work to avoid mess. While some of these animals aren’t so surprising, like cats, others are more expected.
Polar bears are famous for many things: their fur, which appears white but is actually translucent; their status at the top of the Arctic food chain; the threat they face from dwindling ice caused by global warming and more. However, they’re also unusually clean animals.
While polar bear fur is great at providing warmth, it’s not as good at providing insulation — trapping heat — when it’s dirty. Because polar bears are not the neatest of eaters, that could be a real problem in the cold of the arctic. To get around this, polar bears occasionally freshen up by rolling in the snow or taking a swim to clean their fur. Doing so can also keep them from overheating during the warmer summer months.
While domesticated pigs sometimes live in filthy conditions, that’s because of how humans choose to treat pigs, not what they themselves prefer. In the wild, pigs refuse to defecate close to where they sleep or feed. Instead, they wander away from where they prefer to live to do their business, not unlike humans.
Pigs also famously like to roll around in mud. However, as you may have learned in grade school, this practice helps prevent sunburns, cools their body temperature and deters insect infestation. Considering pigs don’t have the benefit of sunscreen or insect repellent, it’s actually pretty sensible to coat yourself in mud if you’re a pig.
As many a cat person can attest, cats are just cleaner than dogs — and a lot of other animals, too. In addition to using litter boxes to neatly hide away their waste, an adult cat spends nearly 50 percent of its waking time cleaning itself (or another cat). From the moment they’re born, a cat is groomed by its mother to stimulate breathing. The kittens emulate this act and start self-grooming when they're just a couple of weeks old.
Because cats can only sweat through their paws, they also sometimes groom themselves to cool off. Licking can also be used to clean wounds since there are enzymes in cat saliva that make it act like a natural antibiotic.
Tigers are the world's largest cat species and the third-largest carnivore on Earth. However, when it comes to cleanliness, they’re surprisingly similar to house cats.
Like their domesticated cousins, tigers have antiseptic saliva. They groom themselves in the same way as house cats, although decidedly unlike them, they also enjoy bathing rivers and lakes to keep cool. As with polar bears, tigers groom themselves in part because a clean coat is better able to insulate them against cold.
Ever wonder why rabbits are so soft? They meticulously groom themselves and do their best not to soil their living quarters. Like cats, rabbits can be trained to use a litter box, and their fur is even odor-resistant.
A dirty rabbit indicates some level of sickness and is a sign that you should consult your vet immediately. You shouldn't bathe a rabbit, as it's highly stressful for most of them and may cause respiratory infections or hypothermia.
Apart from humans, dolphins are some of the smartest animals on Earth. They’re also remarkably clean creatures, and not just because they live in the ocean. While breaching (when a dolphin jumps up in the air) may help dolphins get a better view of their surroundings, communicate with other pods or just have fun, it may also have the benefit of removing parasites from their bodies. Despite the ocean being full of bacteria and other microscopic life, dolphins are also surprisingly resistant to infections. Scientists aren’t sure why dolphins are able to survive in the ocean with open wounds, but they may be using plankton and algae to create antibiotics for themselves.
Some dolphins at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Mississippi are trained to pick up paper litter that falls into their tank and return it to a trainer, thereby keeping their environment tidy. Granted, the concern there isn’t cleanliness — the dolphins have figured out that scraps of paper will get them fish as a reward, so they tear up larger pieces of paper into smaller ones for more food!