You’re sitting in front of the television, unwinding after a busy day, when all of a sudden, your cat starts licking your hair. What is going on here? Does your hair taste good, or does she think you need a good grooming?
You’re not alone. There are many cats who seem to enjoy licking their human’s hair, so we’ll look into the whys of this peculiar feline fetish. We will also give you a few tips on some of the best ways to stop this behavior if you’re not comfortable with how it feels or how your hair looks afterward!
The 7 Reasons Why Cats Lick Hair
1. Love and Affection
It looks like your cat loves you! Take this as a compliment because when your cat starts to lick your hair (or anywhere else), she’s showing you lots of affection as a part of her grooming process.
Cats tend to groom the heads of their ‘chosen friends,’ which you may have observed at some point. If you have multiple cats or watch cat videos online, you will see this is common behavior, so your cat has chosen you as one of her personal favorites.
2. Claiming Territory
Beyond showing affection, your cat is quite possibly marking you as her territory. Your cat is attempting to remove foreign scents from you. Licking you (and your hair) is a way of claiming you as a part of her territory. Using this method, she’s letting everyone (particularly other cats) know that you belong to her.
3. Playful Behavior
If you’re lying down and feeling relaxed and your cat starts licking your hair, chances are she’s being affectionate. If you’re more active, she might be feeling playful. This is when your cat might also start biting your hair. Her own body language should tell you if she’s feeling relaxed or frisky.
4. Your Hair Tastes Good?
Many of us put products in our hair that smell nice, and it’s quite possible that your cat is attracted to the scent. It’s also feasible that your cat actually enjoys the taste of the natural oils or the products in our hair.
5. Grooming = Health
Cats spend about 30% to 50% of their time grooming themselves every day as it keeps their coats and skin clean and in healthy condition. Perhaps your cat is trying to keep you in good health and is essentially cleaning you up.
Some cats will groom themselves as a way of coping with stress, which is something they do before they settle down for a nice long nap. Grooming their loved ones is also a stress-free activity that will allow them to relax.
Mother cats groom their kittens as soon as they are born as a means to stimulate them when they are newborns and to keep them clean. As kittens grow older and stay with their mothers, they will start to groom each other. Since cats view their owners as their mothers, their instincts will kick in, and they will enjoy a good grooming session with you.
Should You Be Concerned?
In most cases, your hair and your cat shouldn’t come to any harm because of this habit. However, some cats are prone to more self-destructive behaviors such as overgrooming themselves and, by extension, your hair. This can be brought on by allergies, pain, or stress, so this needs to be addressed if you’ve observed this issue with your cat.
Other cats tend to engage in cat suckling, also known as wool sucking, which is when an adult cat suckles on soft and fuzzy objects (blankets, toys, and some cats will overgroom as part of this behavior as well). Some of the causes for wool sucking are:
As long as your cat isn’t literally chewing or eating your hair, hair licking is harmless. If you suspect your cat might be feeling stressed or is demonstrating inappropriate behavior, do take her to see your vet.
How to Stop It
As adorable as it is, some of you will probably want the hair licking to cease. The first step is to ensure you aren’t accidentally encouraging this behavior. If you give your cat any attention while she’s grooming your hair, you will be reinforcing this behavior. You need to avoid looking at, speaking to, or touching your cat while she is licking your hair.
If she likes to lick your hair while you’re in bed, you can put the blankets over your head until she gives up and leaves. If she enjoys licking your hair while she’s lying on the back of the couch or chair behind you, just lean forward so she can’t reach your hair.
If you suspect your cat is drawn to a product you’re using in your hair, you could consider switching products. Cats also quite dislike the smell of citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, etc.), so you can use a lemon-scented product (for example) or spray your hair with a citrus scent (they also don’t like peppermint).
Of course, the simplest solution is to gently disengage yourself from your cat’s administrations and leave.
In the long run, as long as your cat isn’t damaging your hair or being overly aggressive in her licking behavior, count yourself as a lucky person. It’s quite clear that your cat loves you and considers you one of her favorite people. The steps you can take to stop the behavior are pretty simple. Cats are certainly smart enough to understand that you’re not necessarily enjoying this kind of attention.
Interested in learning about other odd cat behaviors? Check these out:
Featured Image Credit: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock