Cats are known to groom themselves frequently. However, some cats groom their owner’s hair by chewing and eating it. There are several reasons cats eat human hair, which we will explain in more detail below.
Cats eat human hair to show affection, bond with their owner, and transmit their distinctive scent. However, it can also be a sign of a behavioral problem. These include loss of appetite, stress, or incorrect nursing behavior because the cat was weaned too early. Cats that eat hair may have hyperthyroidism or be hungry.
Human hair, while probably not harmful to cats, can cause problems such as intestinal blockages.
It would be best also to be careful about the products you use on your hair. Some of them can be toxic to cats.
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Why Do Cats Eat Human Hair?
Some cats enjoy the taste of hair, while others engage in this behavior because of health or psychological problems.
Are you wondering what it means when cats eat your hair? Below, we look at the most likely reasons.
Feral cats living in groups groom each other, called social grooming or allogrooming.
In cats, allogrooming consists of licking and nibbling, which is why some cats lick or chew their owners’ hair.
With this technique, cats want to show their owners that they feel connected to them and consider them part of their group.
Cats lick and eat human hair to teach us how to groom ourselves.
Grooming is a learned behavior that is passed down from mother cats to their kittens. As cats get older and become part of your family, they pass these skills on to you.
So cats eat your hair as a side effect of grooming.
They also ingest their own fur and excrete it with their feces or vomit. So, this is not an uncommon behavior.
Cats eat their owner’s hair during grooming as a sign of affection. When your cat eats your hair out of affection, she usually exhibits other behaviors as well:
- She seems relaxed in your presence.
- The cat sits close to you
- It holds its tail erect with a slight bend at the tip
- It purrs or makes a sound when you touch it
- The cat maintains eye contact
- She blinks slowly at you
Your cat scratches and eats your hair because it likes you and feels comfortable around you. However, not all cats feel relaxed enough to do this.
Also, cats are intuitive and pick up on our moods. When they sense we’re sad or down, they’ll scratch our hair to show their affection and cheer us up.
Cats have a unique way of letting us know when something is up.
When your cat’s regular feeding time is approaching, or you forgot to put down her fresh food, she’ll show you by licking your head and hair.
Depending on how hungry she is, she may even eat your hair to feed herself.
In addition to eating human hair, cats may also become noisy, snap at you, and look like they are begging for food.
If you feed your cat their usual food on a regular basis, you can keep them from eating your hair.
Chewing on hair can be a form of self-soothing in times of stress or anxiety.
Cats do this for a variety of reasons. For example, it may be because you have recently moved or introduced a new pet into your home.
When stressed, many cats will groom themselves excessively and may also eat your hair. This makes them feel reassured, especially if they have formed a close bond with you.
Licking also releases endorphins that can relieve anxiety and feelings of stress.
Even if this behavior lasts only for a short time, if your cat’s hair-eating is due to psychological anxiety factors, you should get to the root of the problem.
It is important that you do not yell or scold your cat, as this will only increase their stress level.
By chewing, licking and rubbing, cats can transfer their characteristic odor to you through their saliva and claim you as their own.
While eating your hair, cats rub their heads against yours.
They do this because cats have scent glands on their lips, cheeks and forehead. They release pheromones that tell other animals that you are off limits.
Weaned Too Early
Eating hair can also be a sign that your cat has been weaned too early.
Because of this, she will likely exhibit several incorrect nursing behaviors as she gets older. These include not only eating human hair, but also sucking on blankets, pillows or body parts.
Cats that are weaned too early do so because they have difficulty learning to groom themselves.
Mother cats teach their kittens how to groom themselves. So if a kitten is separated from its mother too early, it misses this important lesson.
Cats must stay with their mothers until they are at least eight weeks old. Some breeds, such as Persian cats, should stay with their mothers until they are at least 12 weeks old.
When cats suffer from pica syndrome, they have a compulsion to eat non-edible items.
Pica syndrome is most common in kittens and infant cats. Most cats regress from this behavior.
However, it can cause a number of problems:
- abdominal pain
- fever or low body temperature
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen, bloated abdomen
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Lethargy and depression
Some cats are genetically prone to pica. It is also a symptom of stress, lack of nutrition, weaning too early, and pregnancy.
You can recognize pica syndrome in your cat by the fact that she doesn’t just swallow the hair, but crushes it with her teeth first.
Hyperthyroidism is another term for an overactive thyroid gland.
It is more common in middle-aged and older cats. It is caused by an enlarged thyroid gland in the cat’s neck.
The thyroid gland then produces an excessive amount of the hormone thyroxine.
Eating hair is one of the most noticeable symptoms. Other signs of hyperthyroidism include:
- Weight loss
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Poor coat quality
- Panting and wheezing
- Increased shedding
If your cat is exhibiting these symptoms at the same time as eating your hair, take him to the veterinarian for an examination.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism usually involves either surgery or medication.
Why Do Cats Eat Human Hair Off the Floor?
Cats are curious. If they see hair on the floor and don’t know what it is, they may eat it to determine if it is something tasty. While this is rare, it can happen.
However, it is more likely that your cat enjoys the taste of hair, especially if it has your scent on it.
In addition, cats that eat hair directly from the floor can suffer from nutrient deficiency. The longer she does not get proper food, the more hair she eats.
Pica syndrome is another possible cause. We mentioned above that it is a compulsive disorder related to non-edible foods.
Cats suffering from it are more likely to eat the hair off the floor, as they will eat anything they can get their hands on.
A common symptom of pica is that your cat will first crush the hair with its molars before swallowing it.
Is It Harmful for Cats to Eat Human Hair?
While human hair is not toxic to cats, it can cause problems. For example, if your cat eats too much of it, the hair can clog the digestive tract.
This is because human hair is made of an insoluble protein called keratin, which cats cannot digest.
In most cases, the hair passes through your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, where it is excreted in the feces. If this does not happen, your cat will vomit them up.
However, if the hairball becomes too large, it can become lodged in your cat’s small intestine, making it impossible for the body to remove it without surgical intervention.
Human hair is usually much longer than cat fur, so large hairballs can quickly form from it. Signs of a stuck hairball include:
- Gagging without anything coming out
- Refusal to eat for more than a few days
- difficulty breathing
If your cat frequently eats your hair and you notice any of these signs, take him to the vet for an x-ray.
Another thing to note about hair restoratives is that they often contain minoxidil, a hair loss medication. This is toxic to cats and can cause heart failure.
Therefore, you should not use these products if your cat tends to eat your hair.
My Cat Licks My Hair and Bites My Head
It is not uncommon for your cat to gently nibble your head or ears while licking and grooming your hair. This is a sign of affection.
Some cats also like the taste of hair or the products on it and can get a little too eager while chewing.
In these cases, your cat doesn’t mean any harm. She probably doesn’t even realize she’s hurting you.
However, if your cat is biting your head a little too hard and scratching you while she is eating at your hair, she may be suffering from a behavioral or health problem that you need to address.
You need to make your cat understand that her behavior is not acceptable. You can do this by moving your head away from her mouth and firmly saying “No” every time she bites your head.
Don’t reward your cat with a treat or toy, as this will only encourage her to continue.
Instead, provide a scratching post where your cat can relax.
Whatever you do, don’t put your cat under more stress. That is most likely why your cat is biting you in the head.
Making your cat even more anxious will only make his behavior worse.
How to Stop Your Cat from Chewing Your Hair
There are instances when you need to stop your cat from eating your hair. This may be because you don’t like the feeling or it may be a sign that something is wrong with your cat, either physically or mentally.
You can stop your cat from chewing your hair with the following steps.
Find the Cause
Before you do anything, try to find out what is causing your cat to eat your hair.
It could be that your cat will stop on its own once you improve the conditions.
Similarly, if your cat suffers from pica, hyperthyroidism or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Appropriate treatment may reduce your cat’s desire to eat your hair.
In many cases, however, your cat is not eating the hair for a negative reason. Instead, it is simply showing its affection or grooming you.
In this case, you should allow your cat to continue eating, as it shows that it cares about you.
Reduce Your Cat’s Stress
If you have noticed that your cat eats your hair in stressful situations, you need to address the cause and improve the conditions so that she feels more comfortable.
For example, if your cat doesn’t like strangers in the house, you should provide a safe place for her to hide and protect herself.
Or if your cat likes to be outside, you might want to put a cat flap on the door so she has constant access to freedom.
Domesticated cats are not that far removed from their wild relatives, and some need some access to the outdoors.
Discourage Your Cat’s Behavior
Whenever your cat tries to chew on your hair, you should discourage it by moving from the spot.
If you stay put while your cat eats at your hair, she will understand this as a signal to continue. She will not understand that what she is doing is bad.
For the same reason, you should also avoid petting or talking to your cat when she is exhibiting this behavior. This confuses the cat and encourages it to continue.
If your cat starts this behavior, you need to act quickly. Even if you allow her to chew on your hair for a few seconds, she will not learn to stop.
If you are lying in bed and cannot move, hide your head under the covers or pillow.
Distract Your Cat With Toys
One of the best training methods is to distract your cat with fun toys and games when he wants to groom your hair. This is because cats love physical and mental stimulation.
As soon as your cat is near your head, throw her favorite toy across the room and encourage her to play.
You can also give your cat treats to keep her away from your hair. However, be careful not to overfeed your cat or she may gain too much weight without you noticing.
Change Your Hair Care Products
Some cats like the taste of certain shampoos and conditioners.
If you notice that your cat eats your hair more often when using certain products, try using a different product for a while. See if this improves the situation.
Similarly, cats do not like the smell of citrus. So try using products with orange, lemon or grapefruit scents.
Cats also avoid mint-scented products, so tea tree oil can deter hungry cats. However, whether you want tea tree oil in your hair is another question entirely.
You may have to do a little trial and error with this method. But once you find a hair care product that your cat doesn’t seem to like anymore, use it for a while until she gets out of the habit of eating it.
Summary: Why Do Cats Eat Human Hair?
While eating human hair is not abnormal behavior for cats, it could be a sign of an underlying problem.
If your cat only eats your hair once in a while, it’s not a cause for concern. However, if your cat does this regularly, you need to be wary of hairballs and resulting constipation.
To prevent this, you should choose food that is designed to make it easier for hairballs to pass through the intestines.
There are also several hairball control products available at pet stores to help eliminate hairballs and aid in digestion.