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Why Does My Cat Lick My Hair?

cats licking each other

Does your cat ever seem to be trying to give you a new hairdo? Do you wake up in the middle of the night to discover that your cat has been trying to wash your hair in your sleep, or with tons of little cowlicks all over your freshly wet head? If so, then there are a couple of possible reasons for this.

The main reason is probably that your cat is trying to show you affection. But your cat could also be trying to mark you as part of their territory or part of their family, or maybe they just really like the taste of your new shampoo.

Grooming Is Social Behavior

For cats, grooming is considered to be a social behavior. Cats spend about 50% of their time grooming. It keeps their skin healthy, and it keeps their furry coats glossy, shiny, and looking good. Grooming each other is how cats show each other affection. Families or a group of cats who are friendly and familiar with one another will often groom the head and neck areas of each other while they are relaxing together. This creates a bond between the cats so that in the future they are able to recognize and identify which cats are part of their social group and that they are friendly with.

If your cat is grooming your hair, then that means they are trying to establish a social, friendly relationship with you. They want to show you affection, and they think that they’re doing you a favor by getting rid of any possible dirt or debris in your “coat”. They consider you to be part of their friendly social group. And since humans really only have hair on top of their head, that is where your cat feels like needs the most grooming attention.

They Are Being Territorial

Cats, like dogs, like to mark things with their scent. This is to ward off other unfriendly cats and to protect the places that they consider to be their territory. In the wild, cats mark their own territory so that they can minimize the chances of coming into contact with other cats. Cats are not usually pack animals. Minimizing contact with other, possibly unfriendly cats, increases their chance of survival in the wilderness.

When a cat smells another cat that they are not familiar with, it warns them that they are in someone else’s territory and that they could be in danger if they don’t get out of there. If your cat is grooming your head, they could be trying to mark you with their scent. Your cat probably enjoys sleeping up next to your pillow, as discussed in one of our previous blog posts. If that is the case, then they are sure to want to keep your head, and their sleeping space, smelling the way they like it. They don’t want any other cat to think that the most prime sleeping spot is up for grabs because it is not marked with their scent. Even if there is only one cat in your household, your cat’s natural instincts are telling them that they need to protect their territory by marking it, and they consider you to be part of that.  

They Like Your Hair Product

There is a chance that your cat may not be trying to be friendly or mark you with their scent at all. If your cat suddenly started grooming your hair, when they have not done it previously, then perhaps they simply have discovered that they like the smell or taste of your new hair products. If you have recently switched products, then you may want to try switching back or switching again, if you don’t want your cat to continue trying to lick your hair.

You can use citrus scented or flavored products if you want to repel your cat from your hair. Cats hate citrus, and they will definitely not want to groom you if you taste like citrus. You also should keep in mind that if your cat is licking your hair products, then they are probably ingesting a lot of product that is certainly not meant for feline ingestion. You should look at the ingredient information on your specific hair products to make sure that your cat is not ingesting anything that could possibly make them sick.

You’re Unintentionally Encouraging Them

If you’ve been trying to get your cat to stop licking your hair for a while now, then you might want to take a good look at the way that you’re trying to communicate with them. When a cat doesn’t like something, they simply remove themselves from it. Surely you have seen your cat get up and move away from you when they are tired of getting pets, or get up and move away from the other cats in the house when they are no longer interested in cuddling. With this in mind, you should tailor response to your cat according to behavior that your cat will understand. So if your cat is excessively licking your hair, then you should get up and remove yourself from their reach.

If you are trying to get your cat to stop licking your hair by pushing them away or telling them no, you are giving your cat attention. Any kind of attention may be interpreted as positive attention, and be sending your cat the wrong message. They could be thinking that you like their excessive grooming, and continue their work. Ignoring your cat when they are doing something that you don’t like is the best way to let them know that you want them to stop.  

Signs Of Emotional Distress

If your cat is very frequently grooming you, some experts believe that it could be because they are stressed or unhappy in some way. Some studies show that if a cat was taken from their mother when they were too young, that they will groom more frequently as adults than cats who were left with their mothers until they reached an appropriate age. Cats find the act of grooming to be comforting, so if they are grooming excessively, it could be because something is upsetting them and they are trying to self-soothe.

If there is a recent change in your household, like adding another pet or if you have moved recently, this could be triggering anxiety in your pet. If you feel like your cat is having trouble with excessive grooming, and you can’t pinpoint the stressor in your cat’s surroundings, it could be a good idea to take them to the vet.

Conclusion

All of these are possible reasons that your cat is licking your hair. For the most part, you should feel flattered that your feline friend is showing you affection and is trying to lay claim to you. They consider you to be a part of their family, and they are trying to let you know in their own feline way. If you’re tired of getting groomed, however, you can simply remove yourself out of your cat’s reach whenever they try to lick your hair, and they will eventually get the message. If you feel like your cat is grooming too much, and the behavior is becoming compulsory, it could be time for a trip to the vet.

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