The Sea Otter’s Fur, And How It Grooms It! (Questions Answered)

Have you seen a sea otter up close? We at Floofmania are not surprised if you haven’t since sea otters are endangered and most are found in Alaska.

Sea otters are known for having the densest fur in the animal kingdom. Their fur is essential for the sea otter for several reasons, namely for staying warm, but also for staying afloat. 

Keep reading to learn more about sea otters and their fur!

Is The Sea Otter’s Fur Soft?

The sea otter’s fur is very soft, extremely dense, and velvety to the touch.

At a closer look, at a microscopic level, sea otter hair is covered with tiny barbs that cause the hairs to cling together tightly, so that the inner fur stays almost completely dry, keeping the sea otter’s skin dry and warm at all times.

Their fur may look fluffy and cute but it does play a crucial role in their survival. Sea otters live in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean mostly in Alaska, Canada, and some in California.

And since sea otters don’t have blubber under their skin (a thick layer of fat that most marine mammals rely on to stay warm), they rely on their fur for protection and warmth along with the body heat generated by a fast metabolism.

How Thick Is Sea Otter Fur?

The sea otter’s fur is about 1.5 inches thick when dry. It’s also the densest fur of all animals! They have up to 1 million hair follicles per square inch of their body except on their nose pad, the soles of their feet, and their inner ear.

That’s a lot of fur for a small animal! In comparison, a human has around 100.000 hairs on their whole head!

The sea otter’s fur has two layers; the long thick guard coat and a more dense undercoat, which consists of shorter hairs. These two layers of fur work effectively to trap air within the dense fur, keeping the cold water from getting in contact with their skin. 

It sounds very simple if you think about it but the truth is, this mechanism is what keeps these animals from freezing in the cold waters of the Pacific.

What Colors Can Sea Otters Have?

Sea otters exhibit different shades of brown, black, and silver. Their inner fur is usually brown to black, which can be in different shades like cinnamon brown, light brown, black, greyish black, etc.

Their outer guard hairs are mostly dark brown, black, or silver. It varies from one animal to another which makes them distinct. Their facial hair is mostly lighter than most of their body.

Do Sea Otters Get Whiter The Older They Get?

As they get older, the sea otters’ fur becomes lighter mostly around their head, neck, and shoulders. Their fur becomes grizzled and turns almost white, which makes it easy to spot an older sea otter from the rest of their group.

Like most animals, including humans, hair, or fur, becomes lighter and thinner as they grow old. The body is not at its prime and their health is not as great as when they are younger.

Why Do Sea Otters Groom Themselves So Much?

Grooming is a necessity for sea otters. Their thick fur requires a lot of maintenance to continue to trap air effectively to keep water from getting close to their skin. They spend about a quarter of their day grooming themselves!

When sea otters dive into the ocean to get food, which they do often throughout the day, the trapped air in their fur is released due to water pressure. Without trapped air, they can easily get wet and cold.

Every time they dive into the water, they need to groom their fur right after. Mind you, they spend about 8 hours a day feeding because they need to eat about 20% to 30% of their body weight daily. Now that’s a lot of underwater swimming! Just imagine how many times they have to groom themselves!

Grooming Helps Sea Otters Stay Afloat And Warm

Grooming has two major benefits for sea otters – it helps them keep afloat and it keeps them warm in the cold water.

  • Staying afloat – the trapped air in the sea otter’s fur keeps them afloat without having to put in any effort. Trapping air in their fur requires some effort like blowing bubbles into their hair after combing it with their claws when they are done diving and getting wet.
  • Staying warm – constant grooming keeps their fur in shape. It keeps the water from reaching their skin which keeps them dry and warm despite being in cold water all the time.

How Do Sea Otters Groom Themselves?

As soon as sea otters reach the surface water from their dive to forage for food, they start grooming themselves even while they are eating. That is how important grooming is to them.

Sea otters often rub their face and their bodies using their paws and claws to fluff and comb their fur. They also blow on their fur to help trap air in it or use their tails to make air bubbles in the water by flapping it rapidly and rolling on the water.

They remove dirt and debris using their teeth, paws, and claws, and they even use rough surfaces of big rocks to scratch their backs.

How Much Time Do Sea Otters Spend Grooming Themselves Every Day?

Grooming is a top priority for sea otters, which comes a close second to eating and sleeping. While they spend big chunks of their day foraging, eating, and sleeping, they spend about a quarter of their day grooming. 

That is about 5 to 6 hours of constant grooming throughout the day!

When sea otters come out of the water to lounge on big rocks, they groom themselves. In between eating and resting, they groom themselves. Grooming is second nature to them.

What’s Special About Sea Otter Babies’ Fur?

What’s so special about sea otter babies’ fur? Imagine a round fluffy ball just bobbing up and down on the surface of the water. That’s what a sea otter pup looks like. Just a ball of dense fur!

The fur of a baby sea otter is so dense and traps so much air that they don’t drown or go down in the water, they just float! They can’t dive underwater even if they want to because they are too buoyant.

Sea otter pups will have to wait for their adult fur to grow before they can learn to swim and dive, which is usually around their 4th week of life.

How Much Do Sea Otter Mommas Groom Their Babies?

Sea otters are very nurturing and protective mothers. They keep their pups close to them and care for them until they are old and smart enough to make it on their own. This usually happens in their 8th month.

Until then, sea otter mommas spend most of their time taking care of their pup, grooming it all day except when she is foraging, eating, or sleeping. Aside from making sure the fur is water-resistant, grooming is the mother’s way of showing affection and security to her pup.

Sea otter moms are often seen carrying their pups on their stomachs while they are floating, grooming their fur. There is no exact time as to how much they spend grooming their young but in between rest and feeding, they are always grooming either themselves or their baby!

What Do Sea Otters Use Their Whiskers For?

The sea otter’s whiskers act like an antenna that senses vibrations in the water allowing them to detect the movements of their prey underwater.

This is very useful when hunting for food because sea otters save a lot of energy by using their whiskers. They don’t need to dive underwater to look for food.

They can survey their food sources while floating above the water, zero in on prey or food sources, and dive when they are ready to pounce.

How Many Whiskers Do Sea Otters Have?

Sea otters have a lot of whiskers, about 120 on average which is the same as sea lions and seals. Quite a lot, don’t you think? 

Having plenty of whiskers on their muzzle works well for sea otters, especially in foraging and identifying prey. Being small marine animals, they need effective tools to get to their prey quickly and effectively.

Their hunting skills become more effective with the use of their whiskers, elongated digits on the paws, and their ability to use tools.

Why Are Sea Otter Whiskers So Long And Big?

Sea otters have big and long whiskers because they work as a kind o  sensor for underwater movements for potential prey items and food sources. 

Think of how antennas and satellites have to have long parts to get signals, it works the same way for the sea otters’ whiskers.

They need long big whiskers to detect movements and tract hydrodynamic trails. The longer the whiskers the better they can detect and sense movements. Quite interesting for a small marine mammal, don’t you think?

Why Do Sea Otters Have Such Big Tails?

Sea otters have stocky round bodies so it makes sense to have big muscular tails that match. Sea otters use their tails to aid in their movements so a big round tail is sufficient to support their stocky body.

Sea otters use their tails for a lot of purposes, it is one of their major tools for survival. 

What Do Sea Otters Use Their Tails For?

Sea otters use their tails for many things especially when they are foraging for food. 

The sea otter’s tail is about 5 to 15 inches long, round, and muscular. They have long tails but they have the shortest and less muscular tails in the otter family.

Here are some of its uses:

Sea Otters Use Their Tail For Swimming and Diving

Sea otters spend most of their life in the ocean so they are great swimmers and underwater divers. Their tails play a vital role in their swimming and diving abilities.

Being marine mammals, sea otters can’t breathe underwater and are required to hold their breath. They need to swim and dive fast while getting their food.

Having a strong muscular tail to steer and paddle makes them faster and more agile underwater.

Sea Otters Use Their Tail Like A Rudder While Floating

Sea otters spend a lot of time floating on water while they are resting, eating, grooming, or taking care of their babies.

While floating on their backs, they can use their tails to act like boat rudders to steer and turn in any direction they like.

It helps them save energy while resting which is important because sea otters consume a lot of energy to produce body heat even when they are not moving.

Sea Otters Use Their Tails To Balance Themselves Standing Up

Their muscular round tails help the sea otters to balance when standing upright on their hind legs. 

Sea otters may seem graceful on the water but they are awkward and clumsy on land.

They use their tails to support their body standing up and even when they walk or run on all fours. Having a tail helps them propel themselves forward.

Sea Otters Use Their Tails For Support When They Are Fighting

Sea otters may look cute and cuddly but they are ferocious animals that do not shy away from a fight. 

They fight on land or in water and they use their tails to support their bodies. When fighting in water, sea otters rely on their tails to keep them afloat because their paws and legs are busy warding off attacks.

On land, they rely on their tails to keep them up or to give them additional power to lunge at their enemies.

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