You must have noticed that sometimes your cat will lie beside you and happily lick your head and graze on your hair. It can be worrying because you are not sure if your furry friend will ingest the hair and if there are any health consequences of such actions. However, even before you start beating yourself up about the effects of hair ingestion, you ask yourself, “Why does my cat keep eating my hair in the first place?” Veterinarians and animal behavioral experts have come up with a few reasons to explain the weird behavior, and here are some of them.
Pets Overload explained that the most common reason for cats chewing on hair is because they love their owners. The licking is part of grooming you; as a member of their family, you always have to measure up to their hygienic standards. Cats are clean animals, and the grooming is passed on from mother to kitten. Therefore, just like a cat will clean its kittens, it will continue to groom you out of love. The chewing part is usually to detangle any hair as they do when grooming their fur. Besides eating hair to clean you up, cats are good at detecting our moods. If a cat senses that you are sad and need some cheering up, a little affection shown by licking your hair is all it thinks will make a difference.
Unlike the common belief that cats are not social creatures, your cat will prove this wrong through its need to socialize with you. Cats that have become friends will groom each other, and the scent is transferred to each one of them to identify those who belong to the social group. Therefore, cat families usually have the same scent. As a result, once a cat includes you in their group, it will lick and eat your hair to incorporate you into the family. Their scent will be transferred to you to mark you as part of their family, too, even if they know you do not belong to the same species. As Be Chewy reiterates, the stronger your relationship with your cat is, the more likely it is to eat your hair.
Hunger or Attention
If you are keen on your cat’s feeding pattern, you will realize that it is most likely to communicate that it needs to be fed by licking your hair when it is hungry. Therefore, it is essential to stick to a strict feeding routine; otherwise, the cat will associate licking your hair with getting fed. In addition, a feeding pattern ensures that your cat is never too hungry to think about eating your hair to get your attention. However, you can notice if the behavior is associated with hunger if, besides chewing on your hair, the cat paws at you or vocalizes, begging for food.
Just like humans who bite their nails when nervous, cats too will excessively groom themselves or others because they need to soothe themselves. Stress in cats can be relieved through licking, which releases endorphins. If your cat already has a strong bond with you, eating your hair will relieve stress, but you should not encourage it. Understanding the cause of the stress is essential to keep your cat happy and your crown of glory intact. Most importantly, you should not be hard on your cat by scolding it because you will add to the stress, and the behavior will worsen.
Children who are weaned too early can suck their thumbs to comfort themselves, but felines develop oral habits such as eating or sucking hair off of you. iHeartCats published that cats weaned too early will soothe themselves by suckling on whatever object they find. The condition exhibited by such behavior is Pica, and your cat will eat your hair and chew on woolen blankets or plastics. Therefore, learn the background of a cat before adopting it, and if you have a pregnant or nursing cat, ensure that her kittens get enough time with her before the separation.
Underlying Health Conditions
Besides Pica and stress, your cat could be suffering from hyperthyroidism. It is characterized by vomiting, increased appetite, and weight loss. Therefore, even after feeding your cat what you believe are sufficient amounts, your cat will still portray hunger signs exhibited by eating your hair. However, before you conclude that it is hyperthyroidism, consult a vet because drastic changes are needed to ensure your cat gets to live for a while longer. Usually, cats diagnosed with hyperthyroidism only live for five years before kidney or heart failure kills them.
Should You Be Concerned about a Cat Eating Your Hair?
According to The Cat Loop, not every nibbling of your hair should be categorized as a cat eating your hair. For example, some of the cats love the smell of your shampoo and are ever curious to smell it to the extent of licking; others want to groom you to be as clean as they are. In such instances, you should not worry, but if you ever notice that your cat has been eating so much hair that it is in their stool, that calls for a serious investigation. The best solution is to ensure your cats do not have access to your hair, and that entails getting rid of the hair in the bathroom drains, floors, pillows, or furniture.
You can also feed your cat regularly, so it does not think of licking your hair whenever it feels hungry. If the behavior stems from boredom, then diverting its attention to other safe toys is highly recommended. Be careful to give the cat toys that cannot cause further problems; therefore, they should not break easily or have fibers that can be ingested. The dangers of a cat ingesting human hair can’t be ignored because if it is too much to be in the feces, then intestinal blockage could be a costly consequence. Your feline would have to undergo expensive surgery to remove the blockage; if it does not, kill your furry friend first.