It’s almost guaranteed – if I leave my hair without reach of my cat, she will lick and chew it. It happens so much that I’ve often asked “why does my cat eat my hair?” Most cat parents have also experienced this.
But why do cats do this? It’s actually very interesting and rooted in instinct and affection. In this article, we explore the reasons behind this hair chewing habit, understand its significance, and guide you on how to handle it, if needed.
Reasons Why Your Cat Licks or Eats Your Hair
Understanding why your cat might be licking, chewing, or eating your hair involves a combination of feline psychology, behavior, and health awareness. Let’s get into common reasons behind this behavior.
Licking Hair is A Sign of Affection
Cats have a variety of ways they express affection. For many felines, grooming is one of those ways.
When your cat licks or nibbles at your hair, it’s possible they’re trying to groom you, just as they would another cat in their family. By doing so, they’re essentially saying, “I consider you part of my tribe.”
In the wild, cats often groom each other in a behavior known as ‘allogrooming’. This mutual grooming not only helps keep them clean but also strengthens social bonds.
By attempting to ‘groom’ your hair, your feline is expressing social behavior with affection and a sense of camaraderie similar to allogrooming. In their eyes, you’re family!
Just as humans have habits or rituals they turn to for comfort, cats too have their own set of compulsive behaviors that serve as self-soothing. The rhythmic action of licking, chewing, and suckling can be soothing for cats, similar to how some people find repetitive actions calming.
Cats that nibble or suckle on hair, blankets, or other soft items are often displaying a behavior rooted in their kittenhood. Suckling on their mother and the gentle grooming she offered provided both nutrition and comfort. In the absence of their feline mother, some cats transfer this behavior to their human caregiver’s hair or other soft items around them.
Cats are playful by nature. Their world is one of textures, movements, and new experiences. As pet parents, our hair may be an intriguing toy for them, especially if it dangles enticingly within their reach. It’s healthy mental stimulation!
When they nibble, tug, or even try to eat it, they might simply be engaged in a playful fun, exploring the texture and reaction it provokes.
Cats are naturally extremely curious creatures. Every texture, scent, and taste is a potential exploration for them. We cat owners have interesting “fur” with its unique scent – perhaps infused with shampoo or conditioner.
The oils and natural scent might remind them of other cats or the outdoors. In this sense, it’s not so much about eating your hair as it is about investigating and experiencing it.
Getting Your Attention
I understand that our furry buddies can sometimes feel left out, especially when we’re engrossed in other activities. What better way to get our attention than by doing something they know will get an immediate reaction?
It’s Time to Eat
What better reason than because it’s feeding time! If nibbling your hair gets a reaction out of you at the same time everyday in the morning or at night, your smart kitty will learn use it as a subtle (or not-so-subtle) reminder that it’s time to fill up their food bowl.
Cats are occasionally be drawn to strange things due to deficiencies in their diet. If there’s a particular nutrient they’re missing out on, they might try to source it from unconventional places, including your hair. My Maine Coon sometimes licks the apartment walls, puzzlingly enough.
Human hair isn’t nutritious for cats, but the behavior might indicate they’re attempting to rectify an imbalance. Always ensure your feline friend has a balanced diet, and consider a check-up if you suspect nutritional issues.
Cats can develop a condition known as ‘pica’, which involves eating non-food items. This can range from fabrics and plastics to your hair. Pica can arise from various causes, including:
- Emotional Distress: Cats suffering from anxiety, stress, or even boredom might develop pica as a self-soothing behavior, as mentioned earlier.
- Environmental Factors: Changes in their surroundings, a new family member (human or pet), or disruptions in their routine may lead to stress and, subsequently, pica.
If you suspect your cat has pica, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian or feline behaviorist. They will provide insights and solutions tailored to your cat’s needs.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the cat’s thyroid gland produces an excess of thyroid hormone. This leads to a multitude of symptoms, one of which is an increased appetite or unusual eating habits.
Hair-eating isn’t a direct symptom of hyperthyroidism, changes in eating behavior and increased hunger might drive them to nibble on unconventional things, including your hair.
If your cat displays other symptoms like weight loss despite an increased appetite, hyperactivity, or increased thirst and urination, it would be wise to get them checked for hyperthyroidism or other health conditions.
How to Stop a Cat From Licking Your Hair
As pet parents, if your feline friend has taken a too-keen interest in your hair, it might be time to address the unwanted behavior. Here’s how you can steer them away from this peculiar habit.
Simply Move Away
Often, the most straightforward solutions are the most effective. When your cat starts to show interest in your hair, gently change your position or step away.
Over time, they may associate hair chewing with this break in bonding and decide it’s not worth the effort. I understand this may not be possible if your cat is pouncing on your hair while you’re sleeping, though.
Manage Environmental Stress
Your furry friend’s surroundings significantly influence their behavior. If they’re resorting to hair-nibbling as a sign of stress, consider creating a predictable routine.
Regular feeding times, designated play sessions, and ensuring they have their own safe space can work wonders. Interactive toys, scratching posts, or cat trees are also great distractions and provide them with necessary mental and physical stimulation.
Anticipate their moves! If you see your cat gearing up for a hair licking, shift their attention. Engage them in a play session, give them a gentle pat, or offer a treat (sparingly, of course). The goal is to provide an alternative activity that’s more enticing than your hair.
Change the Scent of Your Hair
The fragrance of your hair products might be the main attraction. If your cat is particularly drawn to your eating your hair after a shower, this could be why!
Experiment by switching to unscented products or those with a different aroma. Some suggest adding a dab of citrus scented essential oil to your hair care regime since cats typically aren’t fans of citrus – I do not do not recommend this!
See a Vet
Persistent hair-eating can sometimes signal underlying issues. It’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian if you’re concerned.
Is It Okay for My Cat to Eat My Hair?
In most cases, the occasional lick or chew is harmless and even affectionate, but it’s not advisable to let your cat make a habit of totally eating your hair.
- Hairballs: Cats groom themselves frequently, leading to the ingestion of their own fur, which can form hairballs. If they’re consuming your hair, especially if it’s long, this may contribute to larger or more frequent hairballs. Hairballs cause coughing, vomiting, and in rare cases, lead to intestinal blockages.
- Digestive Issues: Human hair isn’t digestible for cats. I know my hair is definitely thicker then my Maine Coon’s super fine fur. Consumed, human hair may potentially cause obstructions in their digestive system. This can lead to serious health complications and may require veterinary intervention.
- Underlying Issues: If your cat is consistently eating your hair, it might be indicative of behavioral or health concerns such as pica, nutritional deficiencies, or stress.
- Choking Hazard: Particularly for cats that don’t just nibble but swallow strands of hair, there’s a risk of choking.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.