Some cats exhibit unusual behaviour such as choosing to approach a person on her own terms, scratching furniture, and licking her human’s hair. If you’ve ever encountered the last scenario, have you ever stopped and wondered, “Is there a reason why my cat enjoys licking my hair?”
We got to the bottom of things and discovered all the possible reasons why your cat licks your locks. It could be any (or all!) of the following:
- Your cat is grooming you.
- Your cat wants your attention.
- Your cat is marking her territory.
- Your cat enjoys the taste or smell of your hair.
- Your cat wants to relieve your stress.
- Your cat may be anxious.
1 Your cat is grooming you.
A cat’s tongue is covered with tiny, curved, and hollow-tipped spines that can transfer large amounts of saliva from her mouth to her fur. Your cat uses her tongue to clean her skin and fur, lowering her body’s temperature through the evaporation of her saliva. Cats rely on other feline companions to help them lick hard-to-reach areas like their faces, ears, and the tops of their heads.
In general, familial cats groom each other as a gesture of affection. Experts refer to this as allogrooming, which is both a social and bonding behaviour between related or friendly cats. If she extends this grooming habit to you, she considers you as family and wants you to know how much she loves you. Your hair is the closest thing you have to fur, so it’s no surprise that she’d target licking specific areas such as the top of the head, the edge of the hair tips, the beard, and even the eyebrows. As she welcomes you into her inner circle through licking, your cat could also be attempting to teach you how to groom yourself—just like her mother taught her as a kitten.
2 Your cat wants your attention.
Similar to biting, licking may simply be your cat’s way of telling you to pay attention to her. If she’s done it a few times before and received a pat on the head or a cooing sound from you, she’s likely to do the same action over and over again.
3 Your cat is marking her territory.
Cats who belong to one family smell the same way because of the scent they release through licking. This helps them instantly identify one another, and makes them feel comfortable with their surroundings. If you own more than one cat (or there are many cats in your neighbourhood), the cat who loves licking your hair may be trying to show others that she “owns” you. She may be using her scent to intimidate or chase other cats away.
4 Your cat enjoys the taste or smell of your hair.
Some feline pets love the smell and taste of your hair’s natural oils or your hair products. You can test this theory by changing the hair care products you use, and seeing how she reacts to them. If you want to lessen your cat’s licking habit, choose shampoo with cat-repellent scents such as lavender, citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass. Also, be wary about letting the cat lick your hair if you’re using a strong hair product such as dandruff shampoo that might be toxic for her.
5 Your cat wants to relieve your stress.
Cats are attuned to their owners’ emotions. When you’re feeling low or under the weather, your cat may suddenly become more attentive and lick you to help you feel better. It’s comparable to the way they lick one another to calm themselves.
6 Your cat may be anxious.
If your cat suddenly gets into the habit of licking your hair and other objects more than usual, it may be something that should be looked into especially if it starts to affect her day-to-day life. Schedule a visit to her veterinarian so you can rule out any medical issues and discuss possible reasons for the unusual amount of licking. Remove the possible stressors and see if her behaviour improves. If the behaviour persists, book an appointment with an animal behaviourist to treat it accordingly.
What to do if you don’t enjoy being licked
Not all cat pawrents find hair licking an enjoyable experience. If you do not prefer your tresses to be licked, you can calmly distract your cat by providing her with other oral outlets like a fuzzy toy or a food-dispensing puzzle. Stand up and leave without shouting at her or reprimanding her for her actions.
Licking is a completely normal cat activity that may extend to the hair of a kitty’s favourite human. Cat behaviourist Pam Johnson-Bennett says that “the stronger the bond you have with your cat, the more likely it’s going to happen,” so you should take it as a compliment the next time it occurs.
If you’re considering adopting a rescue cat (and would love to discover all her feline quirks), we have all the information you need right here. You can also read more cat-related guides and adoption stories on our blog.