Your cat already spends a lot of their time grooming their own fur, but you may occasionally notice that they try to lick your hair too. This behavior can be annoying, but it’s often a sign of affection from your kitty. Here’s why cats lick your hair and what you should know about this fascinating kitty habit.
Why do cats groom?
Cats groom themselves and each other for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, they groom their own fur as a means of cleaning themselves. This behavior is instinctual, and it has evolved over time as a way of keeping cats safe and healthy.
When cats are young, their mothers groom them and teach them to groom themselves. When they live in groups, they actively groom each other as a way to ensure that they share a scent. That way, if a cat leaves the pack and later returns, they can use the scent to identify them. Mutual grooming is one of the best indicators that cats get along well, rather than simply tolerating one another.
Cats often will groom themselves as a way of reducing stress, as the behavior is very soothing for them. In groups, cats also groom each other, particularly their heads, as a way of showing affection.
It’s this aspect of grooming that sometimes gets transferred to humans. Cats develop very strong bonds with their owners, and their desire to groom your hair is a way of showing affection. They also could be attracted to the scent of your hair products!
You may also feel your cat’s paws on your head while they’re licking you. When this happens, they are usually kneading. Kneading is an affectionate, self-soothing behavior that cats often do to their owners.
Is it safe for my cat to lick my hair?
Although having your cat lick your head can be irritating, it’s not necessarily dangerous behavior for them. If your cat over-grooms you, they could ingest too much hair, but this rarely happens in practice. It’s also possible that some of your hair products could be dangerous if ingested, so be very cautious of this when letting your cat groom your head.
However, if your cat is grooming you constantly, it might be a sign of stress. Cats over-groom themselves in times of stress, and they could be transferring this behavior to you. Consider seeing a vet if the behavior is becoming difficult to handle on your own.
How do I get them to stop?
Although hair licking is a sweet behavior that is typically a result of affection, it can get annoying and can even pull out your hair. To get your cat to stop, distract them – don’t punish them. You should never punish affectionate behaviors, as this can be very stressful for your cat.
When your pet starts licking your head, get out one of their favorite toys and distract them. This additional stimulation will help them move away from your head. Gently move them off of your head so they can play. However, you shouldn’t pet or reward the cat for the licking behavior either, as this can cause them to continue it.