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?
For all of those times you’ve found yourself asking ‘why does my cat lick my hair?’, here’s everything you need to know, including the reasons the cat is licking you, what to do about excessive licking and whether you need to be concerned.
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:
1. A Sign of Affection
This is the most common reason why your cat is licking your hair, and also the most reassuring. 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.
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If your cat is licking its owner’s hair occasionally then there’s a good chance it is simply expressing its care. Your feline is 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.
While your cat is licking you, it might also start chewing on your hair. This is all a normal part of the grooming technique. Think of it as a love bite!
2. Claiming Territory
When cats lick your hair, they are essentially covering you with their scent. Cats have scent glands on their face and by licking or nuzzling you, they’re transferring their scent to you.
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 and should be enjoyed as such, as long as this cat behavior isn’t making you uncomfortable.
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 – called social grooming – and when your cat does it to you, it might be trying to teach you a lesson.
Don’t be offended – your cat isn’t telling you that you need a bath! This is just another sign that 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.
If your cat’s licking you then it might just mean it’s a little stressed or that it thinks you are. It’s using its licks to soothe itself and you. Enjoy the moment and the quality time and pet your cat in return – share in the affection!
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.
This doesn’t mean your cat views you as a kitten, although it may be acting as a sort of mother cat to you. It can happen with a male cat too. Again, don’t be alarmed – it isn’t necessarily a sign that your cat feels dominant over you. It may just be acting out of parental care. As long as your cat’s tongue isn’t bothering you or causing you any problems then let it happen.
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. Cats tend to prefer feline hair to human hair in most situations when grooming.
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.
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, or see if there’s anything in your cat’s environment that could be causing stress or discomfort.
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 that hair product with the moment when the excessive licking started. And if it’s something you want to stop, simply change to a different product.
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.
A lot of people are absolutely fine with the sensation of their cat’s tongue on their hair, particularly if you’re quite affectionate with your cat. But it’s not for everyone and that’s OK. Your cat’s happiness shouldn’t come at the expense of your own or that of your family – if the cat’s licking your partner or kids and they don’t like it, it’s time to train your cat out of it.
IT CAUSES YOU HEALTH PROBLEMS
You might enjoy the sensation of your cat licking you – but that doesn’t mean it’s always good for you. It could cause you some minor problems that aren’t worth leaving alone.
Common issues when cats groom their owner are skin problems and minor hair loss. Your cat won’t make you go bald, but if they keep licking you in the same spot then you might suffer minor hair loss which could thin out your hair a little.
Of course, many people are allergic to cat saliva, which is when your feline friend could really damage your skin. Some allergies are minor and a pet owner might not know they’re allergic until their cat gets this affectionate. If your cat’s licking habit is causing any inflammation or other skin problems then it’s time to train them out of 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 hair excessively, then you have to find out why and then try to eliminate the source of the problem.
Feline behavior studies show that any form of excessive grooming can be a sign of a compulsive disorder, which is where the cat is displaying distress. If they’re licking themselves too frequently it’s normally a sign of pain and is common in an older cat.
could also start fur mowing – where they literally clear an area of their skin with their tongue. Watch out for excessive licking that could also be a flea infestation – something any pet owner should be on the lookout for. Check for your cat scratching itself too.
However, when licking human hair without stopping then it’s more likely to be stress or some other form of discomfort in the cat’s environment. Also if the cat’s licking itself excessively and you, then you might end up with fleas too.
Sometimes a cat might be over-grooming itself if it wants to be outdoors more. If you take on a cat as an indoor cat but it seems anxious or under-stimulated it could present as a behavioral problem and overgroom either itself or you. Any responsible cat lover will know their breed and whether they’re an indoor cat or they need to be allowed outdoors more.
If you can’t work out why your cat is licking you excessively, and you’ve kept a close eye on their behavior, then it’s probably time to speak to your veterinarian – just to find out if they can identify anything that might be distressing your cat.
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.
It’s also possible for a cat to get a hairball from licking human hair. Cat’s fur tends to be looser, but if they’re licking your hair a lot then they could get a build up. Any hairball is not ideal for a cat – they will be uncomfortable and could even cause health problems.
Speak to your vet if your cat has hairball problems, or if you notice your cat hacking or being sick after they’ve been licking your hair.
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. Just be aware that this might not help – some cats see it as a bit of a game, trying to find you under the blanket. You might need to try something else.
If you don’t want to get up and physically move away from your cat, and the blanket isn’t working, 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. This can stimulate your cat’s interest and stop them from trying to lick you. Over time this will train them out of trying to do it.
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. That’s because a cat’s sense of smell is a lot stronger than ours, and citrus becomes overpowering to them.
There are also specialist repellant products that you can use, although these are less pleasant for yourself and your cat. They might prove more effective, if the above options aren’t working for you, but it’s up to you whether you want to use them.
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 case, 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. Just be sure to monitor them if their behavior changes at all, and also make sure they’re not causing you any skin problems when they do it.
Remember, it’s fine to train your cat out of licking your hair if you don’t like it!
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.
If your cat is partial to licking your hair after a shower, take a little extra time to make sure you’ve fully rinsed it. You don’t want your cat to be licking anything that could be toxic to them. And switch to a different product, ideally citrus-based, if you don’t want your cat to lick your hair when you’ve just washed it.
Does your cat lick your hair? How often does it do it? Do you enjoy it when your cat licks your hair, or does it make you feel uncomfortable? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!