What Does It Mean if a Cat Is Eating Hair?

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Any cat owner knows that cats do weird things sometimes. One of cats' oddest quirks is their occasional interest in snacking on their owners' hair. The reason your cat licks or eats your hair could be a simple hello, a need to chew, or it may be a sign of a larger problem.

Social Activity

  • Cats have a complex social order and are not shy about who they like. Part of their way of showing affection is to groom -- by licking -- the heads of those in their circle whom they view most favorably. But kittens who have been taken from their mothers before they are 12 weeks old may chew on hair as part of a suckling behavior. This, like kneading, is a drive to feed from their mothers by pressing against them and attaching to a teat.

Pica

  • Pica is the tendency for cats to eat non-food items. Cats engaging in pica tend to prefer string, wool yarn, cables, phone chords and, yes, human hair. No one knows for sure why cats engage in pica behavior, but ingesting pieces of fabric or hair can be dangerous. Clumps of hair may wad up in a cat's digestive system, blocking blood flow to the stomach and intestines.

Pica in the Genes

  • For some cats, pica behavior may be genetic. The condition typically shows up in young cats and may be a sign of inherited compulsive behavior. Hair eating might also be a reaction to boredom. Some cats like to play and be mentally stimulated. Some cats may also just like the taste of hair human hair and the products you use on it. Still others may chew hair to gain their owners' attentions.

Serious Trouble

  • Though the reasons for most pica behavior might be generally benign, the condition has been linked to feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency, WebMD reports. It also may be triggered by serious conditions such as feline diabetes and brain tumors. Less life-threatening, but still serious, is that hair eating may be a sign of stress in cats.

How To Stop the Chewing

  • The most common prescription for treating pica is to remove the cat's temptation. But short of shaving your head, simply playing with your cat more often may go a long way toward ending her preference for your hair and easing her boredom and stress. Also, some durable cat toys and a bit of catnip or cat grass may redirect your cat's chewing behavior toward safer targets.

References

  • Photo Credit Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images
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