Why Does Your Cat Lick Your Hair?

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Cats are extremely thorough when it comes to grooming, but as any cat owner knows, sometimes, the licking extends to them as well. When you’re having a tender moment with your cat, petting it, all of a sudden, the kitty starts licking your hand or your hair. Why do they do that? What does it mean? Is there anything wrong with it?

Here’s everything you need to know about why your cat licks your hair and what you can do about it if it gets bothersome!

5 Main Reasons Why Your Cat Licks Your Hair

You have surely seen your cat licking its own fur, you may have seen it licking other cats’ fur as well, but you may have been surprised to see your cat licking your hair. To help you get a better understanding of this type of behavior, here are the main reasons behind it:

Why Does Your Cat Lick Your Hair Mary and Bode IMG_2806

1. A Sign of Affection

This is the most common reason why your cat is licking your hair. Cats are capable of very strong emotions and they like to show it. They display their affection for their owners in many ways such as rubbing against them, purring, making eye contact, sitting next to them, or licking their skin or hair.

Grooming is a very sacred ritual for cats. They take self-grooming very seriously and they take great pleasure in doing it. It is also a group activity. When cats relax, they groom themselves and each other as a sign of affection.

If your cat is licking your hair, then it is most likely trying to show you that it is very fond of you and that it feels relaxed in your presence. You should take it as a compliment because it truly is.

Cat licking wet hair
Finnegan, loved by Barb & Sean. Photo by Barb.

2. Claiming Territory

When cats lick your hair, they are essentially covering you with their scent. This is a soft form of claiming their territory and asserting their dominance over you. They essentially want to let other cats and, hopefully, humans as well, know that you have been claimed and that they can’t claim you for themselves. This is also a sign of affection.

3. Grooming Lessons

Your cat might want to teach you a thing or two about grooming when it licks your hair. In groups of cats, they teach each other how to groom themselves, and when your cat does it to you, it might be trying to teach you a lesson. This also shows that your cat cares about you and that it wants you to take the best possible care of yourself.

4. Stress Relief

When cats wash themselves, they feel relaxed. Self-grooming is a very relaxing ritual for them, and so is grooming you. Your cat is trying to bring you into their relaxation time and make things even more enjoyable, for both it and yourself. Enjoy the moment, pet your cat, and enjoy the quality time!

5. Instinct

For a cat, self-grooming is an instinct, but so is showing the other members of their community how to do it. Mother cats show their offspring how to groom themselves better, adult cats, both male and female, show younglings how to do it, and, sometimes, cats extend these lessons to the human members of their pack as well.

Should You Stop Your Cat From Licking Your Hair?

In most cases, cats don’t lick their owner’s hair very often. It might happen every once in a while, during a tender moment, but it is rarely a day-to-day occurrence.

However, there are some cases when cats do this excessively. if this happens, then the reason behind the licking is that it has become a coping mechanism for something that happened to them.

Why Does Your Cat Lick Your Hair Mary and Bode IMG_2807

Reasons for Excessive Licking

Again, this is a very rare occurrence and it is almost always related to a stressful episode in their life. Some cats might choose to lick your hair as their way to cope with a major stressor in their lives. In this case, stopping the licking itself will not solve the problem.

As long as the source of the stress is still there, the cat will develop a way to cope with it. What you can do if you notice this is to pay attention to your cat’s behavior and to analyze its daily behavior patterns to find out what is stressing them out.

Another reason behind excessive licking could be the smell of your hair. You might be using a type of shampoo, conditioner, or another type of hair product that is making your cat lick you. If this is the case, you should be able to link the moment when you’ve started using the product with the moment when the excessive licking started.

Reasons to Stop This Behavior

When is it time to do something about your cat licking your hair? Think about how you feel about this type of behavior, analyze the effect it has on your cat and find out if it’s time to put a stop to it. Here are a few reasons why you might want to stop your cat from licking your hair:

You Do Not Enjoy It

While it might be a sign of affection and a type of behavior with positive intentions, if you do not enjoy your cat licking your hair, then it is time to put a stop to it. If it makes you feel uncomfortable when the cat does this, then you have to train it to stop doing it.

It Does It Excessively

When this type of behavior becomes excessive, it is no longer a sign of affection, but a cry for help. If your cat is licking your cat excessively, then you have to find out why and then try to eliminate the source of the problem.

It Is Harming the Cat

This rarely happens, but sometimes licking your hair may not be healthy for your cat. If you use strong hair products or toxic products, then having your cat lick your hair might harm it. If you see your cat drooling after licking your hair, for instance, then you have to find out why.

What You Can Do to Stop This Behavior

If you want to put a stop to your cat licking your hair, then you have to signal to it that it is not allowed. You have to be consistent in your actions and, in time, your cat will learn that it is not acceptable behavior.

Here are a few things you can do:

When your cat starts licking your hair, do not indulge it. Don’t yell at the cat, but simply get up and leave. You can signal that it is not acceptable behavior by saying “No!” and then leave. Don’t pet your cat after that. If you continue caressing the cat, then it will interpret this as a sign that it should also continue showing you affection, which will most likely result in the cat starting to lick your hair again.

What you can do is leave, just ignore your cat for a few minutes so that it understands what caused affection time to stop. Do this every time it tries to lick your hair and it will eventually understand that it is not supposed to do it.

If your cat licks your hair when you go to bed at night and you want it to stop, then you can try covering your head with your blanket until the cat goes away. In addition, you can offer the cat something else to focus on, such as a food-dispensing cat toy or just giving it treats in these trigger moments.

Another thing you can do to get your cat to stop licking your hair is to make it undesirable. You can try making it smell unpleasant to your cat. For instance, you can try spraying it with citrus-scented products, which will leave your hair smelling lovely but will drive your cat away.

FAQ

Is it ok for my cat to lick my hair?
Yes, it is. Licking your hair is not harmful to your cat unless it eats the hair, which is something you would notice. This type of behavior could also be harmful if you are using hair products that are toxic to your cat.

If this is the cat, you will notice signs in your cat, such as drooling. But keep in mind that these things happen very rarely. In the vast majority of cases, it is perfectly safe for both you and your cat.

Why does my cat lick my hair after a shower?
In most cases, this has to do more with the smell of the shampoo or conditioner you are using then it does with anything else. Cats sometimes find the smell of certain hair products very attractive and it might get them to start licking your hair.

Does your cat lick your hair? How often does it do it? Do you enjoy it when your cat licks your hair? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!

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Comments (8)

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  1. SUPER PAWESOME & FABULOUS & ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING POST, Jenny honey! TYSVM for all the great info! I never even knew THIS was a THING! 😉 <3

    We've never experienced this behavior from Miss PSB but then again we are never close to her face with our wet hair…when we have hair*…lol. 😉 <3

    *I have been rocking a shaved head since I began My Wellness Journey back in 2017. It is sooooo liberating to NOT have to mess with hair! Hubby also shaves his head for 85% of the year, too. 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

  2. One of our ragdolls starts licking my hand very enthusiastically if I’m petting him on his belly or when I’m removing a hair mat he can’t get to. Sometimes he even gives me little grooming bites with his front teeth. It’s as if he’s returning the favor 😀

  3. Jenny
    When I saw this article , I jumped out of my chair. My cat is 19 and just started licking and sometimes chewing on my hair about two years ago. I discussed it with the vet. She does it infrequently and only really does it, I have now realized, when she really wants me to feed her. I think she knows it annoys me and it’s her way of saying ‘notice me and feed me now’. Otherwise, if she doesn’t lick and chew on my hair, she will knock things off tables. I just found it odd that after 19 years, it was a new behavior.

      1. If you think that’s weird, only just last year did my cat Slippers, start sitting on my lap. She never ever was a lap cat before last year. Now, as soon as I sit down, she jumps up on the chair to sit on my lap. At the very least, she will try and jam herself into the spot between my thigh and the arm of the chair. She won’t move until I get up. Beyond strange but I am enjoying it.

      2. that is beyond strange – but i am glad you’re enjoying it – as it sounds like she is too. my rags became quite the talker in his old age – he never talked as a youngster – but he also lived with our family of 6 and dogs when he was a youngster and in his old age, it was just me (my mom finally let me steal him) and him in my house…so maybe he thought he could finally be heard.

  4. Jenny,

    Rags found his voice!

    I never thought about it that way. Slippers sister via adoption passed away 6 years ago so maybe it took some time for Slippers to come into herself and proclaim me as hers and hers alone. I did, unfortunately, tend to pick favorites with Flip and Slippers and Flip was always ‘my girl’. Now, by default, Slippers is but I’m happy about. She’s a totally different cat now being in her own. Maybe it just took her and me time to see it.

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