Why Do Cats Lick, Chew or Eat Human Hair

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Cats definitely have some odd behaviors. Though many cats share similar, common quirks, some actions might have us worried about our furry friend’s health and wellbeing. Why does a cat sometimes eat and chew its owner’s hair? We’ve done some searching and have the best information for you.

The main reason for a to lick or chew their human’s hair is affection. Mutual grooming is a way for felines to mark each other as family. When Kitty licks you, she’s probably bonding and showing how much she loves you. 

Excessive grooming could be a sign of stress.  If you notice an increase in grooming, including mutual grooming, try to see if there have been any changes in Kitty’s life lately.

Now that you know a few reasons why a cat might eat or chew your hair let’s discuss them in more detail. We’ll talk about some ways to stop the behavior, as well as discuss other questions you might have. Continue reading!

A cute tabby cat licking the beard of his owner, Why Does My Cat Eat And Chew My Hair?

Not all cats lick human hair, but when a young cat begins to do that, the act can easily become a curious habit.

Why do some cats lick their person’s hair while others don’t? Nobody knows for sure. Some cat lovers like to affectionately call this “the barber’s gene” but no one knows if this is in fact a genetic trait.

Whatever the origin, it’s often an endearing scene –

Let’s dig deeper into the reasons for a cat to lick their owner’s hair.

Grooming as a sign of affection and a way to bond

Cats use grooming as a way to show us we’re part of their family. Mutual grooming – also known as allogrooming –  is a common feline behavior in multi-cat households and indicates that the cats are bonded and enjoy each other’s company. The same is true of feline-to-human grooming.

There’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

Each feline has their own unique “scent signature”. While our human noses aren’t sensitive enough to recognize the olfactory blend, it plays a central role in a cat’s sensory world.

Your cat transfers some of their unique scent to you through grooming and rubbing. They are in fact marking you as their own, in a subtle way that’s us humans can’t perceive.

Marking by rubbing and grooming is another way the cat is claiming you as their friend and a part of their pack. This is an important part of your cat’s social life and isn’t too much cause for concern unless your cat starts having frequent hairballs because of it.

You can read more about the phenomenon here: Why Do Cats Groom Each Other? (The Answer Will Surprise You!)

This is by far the most common reason for your cat to be licking your hair.

Increased Grooming – could it be stress-induced?

Stress is often manifested as overgrooming or overlicking in cats.

While licking another person (or cat) isn’t likely to be an expression of stress, watch out for increased frequency as a potential sign of stress.

How can you tell if the behavior is stress-related? Try to take a look at what’s changed in your pet’s daily routine. Here are a couple of examples.

A New Move

If you’ve recently moved into a new home and your cat started eating and chewing your hair, the new home is likely the culprit. Be patient with your kitty as you make the transition to this new area. It’s essential to make sure your cat has their things from the old house they have already rubbed against and transferred their scent.

A New Pet

If you’ve adopted a new cat or another animal, this intruder could be causing your cat a lot of stress. Try introducing a new pet slowly into the household by keeping them separate and slowly starting to allow them to spend time together. Too much togetherness too fast is likely to cause undue stress to your four-legged friend.

A cute ginger tabby cat grooming herself while staring at the camera

There are other causes of stress too. If you notice a change in Kitty’s grooming habits, check out our article:

Stress in Cats – The Ultimate Guide

What Happens If A Cat Eats Human Hair?

Since the consistency of human hair is very different than that of a cat’s fur, the much finer and longer hair gets stuck on the rough surface of their tongue. Because of this, your cat might ingest your hair when trying to dislodge it from its tongue.

Human hair isn’t necessarily harmful to your pet, but the cat cannot digest it. Therefore, the hair will stay complete and generally come out in the cat’s feces or be coughed up as part of a hairball.

Typically, a cat shouldn’t be attempting to deliberately eat and ingest human hair. If you suspect your cat does that, you should talk to a veterinarian. The cat may be displaying a behavior called pica. That’s where an animal eats stuff that isn’t food. It could indicate nutritional deficiencies or other medical issues.

How Do You Stop Your Cat From Attacking Your Hair?

Some cats like to play with hair, rather than groom it. Kittens especially are notorious for turning anything into a game – and that can include your hair.

The problem is that kittens often act out “hunting” scenarios when they play. In those scenarios, your hair might become the prey, and your head becomes the hunting fields. Ouch!

To get your cat to stop attacking your hair, provide them with a different outlet for their playful energy. Whenever the kitten gets to your head level and shows signs of aggression, redirect them to a toy and help them play with that.

Rod-like toys are perfect for distracting any kitten from your head –

View these cat toys on Amazon.

Make sure to read our article Playing With Your Cat: 10 Things You Need To Know where you’ll find tips and tricks for effective and fun play sessions with your cat.

In addition to distracting Kitty with a toy, check out your shampoo. Avoid using shampoo with mint, as catnip is in the mint family, potentially attracting the cat to your hair. If all else fails, you could tie your hair back into a bun, so it’s not attractive to the cat.

Why Do Cats Love Human Hair?

Cats don’t so much love human hair as much as they love their human. Cats love to groom and love their humans. Additionally, human hair is something cats love to play with, especially long hair. It swings and sways like their favorite toys. It’s an important part of kitty socializing — grooming their friends.

Domestic cats giving each other some love

Why does my cat chew on my hair when I’m sleeping?

Cats are generally nocturnal animals, so while you’re resting, your feline is probably looking for something to get into. They’re bored and trying to distract themselves.

The cat may likely attack your hair because they want you to wake up and entertain them. It’s their way of saying, “Be on my schedule!”

Read more: How To Stop My Cat From Waking Me Up At Night (step-by-step Plan)

Why does my cat bite my hair after I shower?

There are a few reasons your cat might bite your hair right after a shower.

One, they’re trying to get their scent back on you. You erased all their hard work of scenting you with your shower!

Two, they might like the smell of your shampoo. As mentioned above, catnip is in the mint family, so you may want to avoid mint-based shampoos and conditioners.

Why is my cat eating hair off the floor?

If your cat is eating your hair or their fur off the floor, you should be concerned about the behavior. It’s a good indication the cat has Pica, which we mentioned earlier.

Pica is the impulse to consume things that offer no nutritional value, such as hair, fingernails, paper, etc. It could indicate a nutritional deficiency.

Talking to your veterinarian is the best course of action. It may be that your cat just needs more fiber in their diet and all you’ll have to do is provide them with their own little patch of grass.

Click here for this easy-to-use pet grass growing kit on Amazon

How do I get my cat to stop chewing on my hair?

If your cat is merely chewing on your hair – without displaying playful aggression – then you could try and deal with the chewing itself.

Some kittens like to chew because it relieves the pain of their growing teeth. After a while, it may become a habit, staying with them through adulthood.

The first method to attempt to get your cat to stop chewing your hair is to deflect the behavior. Move away from your cat and offer a toy they are allowed to play with instead. Like this rope-like toy, complete with infused catnip:

View this cat toy on Amazon.

Continually doing this should stop the unwanted behavior over time. Combine providing an alternative with not allowing the cat to chew your hair. Whenever they go for your hair, simply gently remove them. No need to reprimand them or shout at them. Any form of punishment could easily backfire with a cat and you’ll end up with a hostile and stressed-out cat.

If none of this works, be sure to get your cat to the vet to rule out pica or other health issues.

In Closing

Though the reasoning behind eating and chewing human hair can vary from cat to cat, the steps to help stop the behavior are all the same. In most instances, the behavior won’t cause your kitty any harm, but stay vigilant. Just like you, we want your feline to have a long and healthy life.

As always, you’re more than welcome to join our forums and post in the cat behavior forum about your problem. Our members are there to try and help you out.

4 comments on “Why Do Cats Lick, Chew or Eat Human Hair

catloverfromwayback September 25, 2021
My late great torbie Maddie (that’s her in my avatar) was my hairdresser. She used to lie on the back of my chair and comb (for want of a better word) my hair with her teeth and claws after I’d washed my hair. Didn’t get stuck into long strands, fortunately, just liked the roots at the crown. Don’t know if she liked the flavour when it was newly washed or thought it needed some cat spit to restore it!
IndyJones July 4, 2021
One point to add is long hair in particular can be dangerous if eaten. Like tinsel, it can become twisted in the gut and cause an obstruction. Also never attempt to pull hair hanging off your cats butt. If you do this it can pull the internal organs and injure them.
    catloverfromwayback September 25, 2021
    Yes, it’s like eating knitting yarn, or any indigestible thread - it can lacerate their intestines as it moves, because being long, it doesn’t clear one section before moving to the next. Cats can die from this.
tarasgirl06 June 25, 2021
Thank you for a wonderfully informative (and endearing) article! I LOVE the video of a torti enjoying her human's hair -- it reminds me so much of my Tarifa angel, the only cat in my life who has ever done this and who enjoyed it immensely. The deep purrs and kneadings of the cat in the video also remind us that this behavior may very well be connected to kittens' kneading, purring and suckling when they are/were babies.

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