Have you ever caught your cat chewing a few mouthfuls of your freshly washed hair? Or maybe, you’ve noticed your cat eating hair ties and even your hairbrush? If so, you’re not alone. Eating human hair is not an unknown behavior among cats — and it’s usually harmless.
But why does my cat chew my hair in the first place? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily because it’s hungry or obsessed with grooming. Instead, according to experts, there can be several underlying causes behind a cat’s chewing behavior, such as displaying affection via mutual grooming, boredom, pica, or even an overactive thyroid gland leading to compulsive chewing.
Read on for a closer look at the seven main reasons your cat might be eating your hair, plus a few tips on dealing with this behavior.
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Why Does My Cat Eat My Hair: 7 Reasons Your Cat Might Be Snacking on Strands
As mentioned earlier, there’s not one definitive answer to why cats eat human hair since it could be due to any of the following reasons:
Cats usually display their affection in various ways, such as cuddling up on your lap or even purring. But, in some cases, cats may resort to hair-snacking as a sign of affection or comfort.
Cats use their tongues to groom other felines they consider “preferred associates” (a behavior known as allogrooming). As cats enjoy being groomed, they associate it with the people or animals grooming them and start looking for an opportunity to reciprocate the feeling. So when your cat starts munching on your locks, it can be seen as a sign of affection.
Some cats are also comforted by the scent of hair and saliva from their preferred companion, prompting them to nibble on their owner’s tresses.
If this is why your kitty is snacking on your hair, you may notice it more often when you’re stressed out or upset. So next time your cat randomly decides to cup its paws around a strand of your hair and chow down, take it as a sign of love (even though it may not feel like it now!).
Cats are naturally sensitive to stress, so if they’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, they may resort to nibbling on their owner’s hair to relieve tension. In some cases, cats may take comfort from being groomed and start licking human hair for a sense of security.
When faced with stressful situations such as moving to a new home or welcoming a new pet or baby, some cats may become overwhelmed and make weird (often destructive) decisions. This behavior is known as “displacement grooming,” it can happen when your cat feels unsafe – even if the stress-causing factor isn’t apparent.
Aside from stress-induced eating behaviors, certain medical conditions may cause your cat to snack on strands. For example, cats affected by dermatitis (skin inflammation) might resort to chewing their fur – and sometimes human hair – to relieve discomfort caused by itching.
If you’ve noticed your cat compulsively chewing everything in sight – including furniture and carpeting — it might be time to have it checked out by a vet.
Cats are natural hunters who are often drawn to things resembling their prey. As your hair is stringy and moves, it might be tempting for kitties to try to catch it with their mouths. This behavior can also be a form of play.
Most cats love playing with tassels and strings — which, let’s face it, can look a lot like your hair! When cats see long strands of human or animal hair, they may think of them as toys, especially when moving around or running your fingers through them.
Unfortunately, any loose objects or items near your cat may be seen as potential ‘toys’ – from shoelaces and scrunchies to clothing tags. If you want your cat to stay away from these items, it’s essential to keep them out of reach by storing them in drawers or boxes.
To ensure your cat gets plenty of playtime without having to resort to chewing on human hair, make sure you provide it with plenty of stimulation: interactive toys (such as puzzle feeders) that encourage hunting behavior, feather wands that promote leaping, food-dispensing toys filled with treats, and lots of love and cuddles!
Some cats resort to hair-snacking as a cry for attention, and this behavior is often seen in cats that don’t get enough stimulation. Cats are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active at night when their owners are asleep. If your cat is not getting enough playtime or cuddle time when you’re awake, it might be looking for other ways to engage with you.
Your cat may start licking, biting, and chewing on your hair to get your attention. Unfortunately, this behavior can also become a habit in cases where the owner inadvertently reinforces it by petting or talking to the cat during these episodes. In other words, when people give their cats attention while chewing on their locks, they unintentionally teach cats that this action gets them what they want.
While some cats prefer keeping to themselves, others actively seek interaction with their human family. So if you think your cat is trying to get attention by nibbling on your locks, make sure it has plenty of toys and activities to keep it busy while you’re away — then give your feline friend lots of love when you get home!
Overactive Thyroid Gland
Cats with an overactive thyroid gland, known as hyperthyroidism, may develop a habit of chewing or eating hair. This is because their excess thyroid hormone can cause them to experience increased hunger and thirst, leading to compulsive eating behaviors.
Cats affected by hyperthyroidism have also been known to display inappropriate urination/defecation behavior.
Hyperthyroidism causes cats to spend more time grooming themselves than usual, which explains why they might also be drawn to human hair. In some cases, this condition can make cats feel itchier than expected – causing them to start licking and biting on anything that feels soft or fuzzy – including clothing and sheets.
If you think your cat is experiencing any of these signs associated with an overactive thyroid gland, take it to the vet immediately to begin proper treatment. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment for hyperthyroidism begin, the better chance your cat has at avoiding any long-term health complications related to its condition.
Boredom is one of the most common causes of hair-snacking in cats. When left with nothing to do and no one to interact with, cats – like any other creature – tend to get restless and start looking for something stimulating. Unfortunately, this can cause them to become fixated on chewing things such as human hair or clothing tags.
In addition to being a symptom of boredom, cats may chew on your locks as an effort to self-soothe or stimulate themselves when they’re feeling stressed out. Chewing releases endorphins, which can make cats feel more relaxed and calm down if they feel overwhelmed or anxious about something.
You must provide plenty of activities and stimulation throughout the day to prevent your cat from resorting to hair-snacking due to boredom. This could mean playing with interactive toys, giving the cat its own dedicated space with comfy perches and scratching posts, introducing new toys regularly, or simply spending quality time snuggling together while watching TV!
Feline pica is another potential cause of cats eating their owners’ hair. Pica is a condition in which cats consume non-food items, such as paper, wool, plastic, and even soil. Although the exact cause of feline pica remains unknown, it’s believed to be related to an underlying medical condition or psychological disorder.
In some cases, cats may habituate chewing or eating human hair due to the texture or taste they find appealing. Some cats may even enjoy chewing on their owner’s hair because it feels like grooming themselves – something they instinctively do when feeling stressed or anxious.
Cats with pica often lack certain nutrients in their diet and may be looking for alternative sources of sustenance. If your cat has been recently diagnosed with feline pica, ensure its diet includes all essential vitamins and minerals needed to stay healthy – this can help reduce its urge to chew on non-food items.
How to Stop Your Cat From Eating Your Hair
Now that you know why your cat might be eating your hair, you may wonder how to stop it. Ideally, once your cat begins chewing hair, you should get up and walk away to discourage this behavior. After all, no one wants a furry friend constantly munching at their locks!
Here are some tips that can help you put an end to this behavior:
Pinpoint the Root Cause of the Problem
The first step to stopping your cat from eating your hair is identifying the root cause of its behavior. Once you know why your cat is exhibiting this behavior, you can find the best way to tackle it and prevent it from happening again.
For example, suppose your cat’s hair-eating habit is due to nutritional deficiencies or an underlying medical condition. In that case, providing it with a healthy diet containing all essential vitamins and minerals may be enough to curb its pica-like tendencies.
On the other hand, if it’s a psychological issue causing your cat to chew on human hair, then there are various things you can do to keep your pet happy and occupied throughout the day.
Change How You React to the Behavior
To stop your cat from eating your hair, changing how you react to the behavior is important.
Cats are intelligent creatures and can easily pick up on subtle cues such as your body language and facial expressions. So if you don’t react or pet your cat when it starts chewing on your hair, it’ll think that this behavior is acceptable.
It’s crucial not to display reward behaviors – such as giving treats or extra attention – when cats engage in unwanted behaviors, as this could inadvertently reinforce them and make them more likely to repeat the same actions. Instead, try to remain calm and speak softly but firmly whenever you see your cat starting to chew on human hair.
Another effective way to prevent your cat from snacking on locks is by redirecting its attention when it fixates on chewing on things. Providing your kitty with plenty of exciting toys that it can play with alone or with you can help keep its mind occupied and distracted from engaging in undesired behaviors.
Visit Your Vet
Visiting the vet is a great way to stop your cat from eating your hair. In addition, your vet can provide you with valuable advice and check-ups to make sure that your cat is healthy and happy.
Your vet will be able to test for any underlying medical or psychological issues causing your cat to eat human hair, such as nutritional deficiencies or feline pica. Such conditions are often linked to stress and anxiety, so it’s important to rule out any underlying medical concerns before moving on to other solutions.
If it turns out that there isn’t an underlying medical condition, your vet may suggest behavior modification techniques to help stop the hair-eating habit.
Final Thoughts on Why Your Cat Eats Your Hair
So, why does your cat eat your hair? It could be allogrooming, a nutritional deficiency, an underlying medical condition, or stress and anxiety.
By pinpointing the root cause of the problem, changing how you react to the behavior, and visiting your vet for advice on behavior modification techniques, you can help reduce your cat’s urge to chew on your hair.
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