If you own a pet cat, then one of the more interesting behaviors that you may begin to notice is their desire to lick things. But what about our hair? Why would a cat want to lick this particular area; what does it mean and how should you approach it? I decided to spend some time researching the reasons behind this action. I’ll be sharing all that I managed to find here with you today.
So, in answer to your question; “why does my cat lick my hair?” If your cat is licking your hair, it is likely that they are trying to express their affection toward you. A cat may also lick your hair in an attempt to taste something they can smell, to get your attention, or even in an attempt to groom you. Either way, it is not something you should promote or allow, due to the potential risk of hairballs or the ingestion of chemicals from any products that you may have put on your hair.
Cats can act quite peculiarly at times and we admire them for it. They have interesting personalities and odd habits.
For some of these, there are simple explanations but at other times they can be difficult to understand and work out.
Nevertheless, everything they do, from sitting in boxes to being scared of cucumbers, will always break down and have an underlying reason.
Although they don’t have quite the reputation that dogs have for licking their owners, it’s a pretty common behavior for cats.
It’s also one that you will likely want to better understand, especially if it is something you have only recently noticed or something that your cat has only just begun doing.
Let us now take a closer look at all the potential reasons they may go for your hair.
We will then look at exactly why it is probably best not to allow it and the practical things you can do to reduce or attempt to stop it.
So, be sure to keep on reading to learn all that you can about this bizarre, yet fascinating behavior.
Reasons Cats Lick Their Owners Hair
There are many different reasons why a cat will want to lick their owner. It does depend on the individual cat and the circumstance.
Let us now look more closely at the most common reasons in further detail:
Love and Affection
Cats tend to do exactly what they want to do whenever they want to do it. That is part and parcel of cat ownership and something that we must always consider.
Unfortunately, their somewhat sassy attitudes sometimes lead people to unfairly label them as smug or uncaring.
The truth of the matter is that cats are oddly affectionate and become very attached to their owners. Still, they continue to demonstrate weird behaviors that are easy to misread – especially at first.
How many of us have a cat who seems to want to be left alone but follows them from room to room?
We have all had the experience that a cat rolls over to be put on their belly, but then they change its mind.
With their random 4 am marathons or strange moments of pouncing on our toes, it’s easy to forget they are actually fans of us.
Sure, cats are often not as expressive about their feelings as a dog, but this doesn’t make them any less real.
The thing is that cats behave very differently from humans. Just as they may misunderstand things that we do to them – it’s easy for us to miss the clear signs that they are trying to tell us that they love us.
We are so much more than just a food source for cats. Cats look to their owners as peers and parents; this is often the reason why they lick.
Cats are obsessed with being clean – which is why they spend most of their waking hours doing it. Cleaning is part of their nature and also an important social component for them.
When cats are not around other people, they will sit around their cat peers and lick them. When they aren’t hunting or grooming others, they are grooming themselves!
This is a bonding activity that lets them know they care about another. They do it with their friends, parents, and children. If you are lucky and loved, they will likely do it to you too.
Why do they do it? Well, to them, it feels nice. Think of it as their way of trying to “pet” you. They also want to make sure that you feel clean as a nice way to say “thank you.”
This “affectionate grooming” is likely the culprit behind their funny behavior. How are you sure that this is the reasoning behind it?
While you can’t ask your cat about it, there are some habits that fall in line with affectionate grooming in the wild.
If your cat is doing this while you are lying down or sleeping, this is a good indication this licking is due to affectionate grooming.
Sometimes you’ll notice that they like to lick your hands or skin. In some extreme cases, a cat may perch on you and clean your head or facial hair.
In a world without soap and showers, grooming is a great way to keep “fur” clear of parasites and dirt. There are some ulterior motives to their ways as well.
When a cat licks you and covers you (or their peers) with saliva, they are bathing you in their smells.
They simply want you to smell more like them so that you are associated with them. Although it won’t be so noticeable to the human nose, they are marking you as “one of theirs.”
If you try to pet a stranger cat, later on, you may notice that they get a little alarmed.
Remember, cats also don’t understand the concept of work or laptops, so staying idle typing a report for hours is a rest to them.
If they are doing it while you are more active, this may be a sign of another friendly behavior.
Cats that try to lick you or your hair while you are doing things may just be being desperate for attention.
This is especially true if the licking is coupled with chewing or playful biting. This is your cat’s way of trying to distract you and lure you to go and play with them.
While this may be the case if your cat is doing it while you’re leaving the house or cleaning – there may be another explanation if your cat interrupts your cooking or dining.
Licking For Taste/Salt
If you notice your cat is extra affectionate after you’ve chowed down on a steak sandwich or cut up some fish, it’s possible they are licking the remnants off your hands that you may have placed on your head.
The same can go for if you are sweating.
A lot of animals like to lick the sweat off of others as it is rich in salt. Believe it or not, we actually often sweat from our heads and this collects in our hair.
Perhaps you have put a product on your hair, such as a lotion, shampoo or conditioner that smells particularly nice to your cat. In this instance, your cat may want to taste it.
Should I Let My Cat Lick My Hair?
While it is perfectly fine to let your cat lick your skin, you may want to be careful if they are licking your hair.
Hair is not something that their stomachs just digest. Licking your hair may lead to the development of hairballs.
Additionally, if you are using any products in your hair, this can go directly into your cat’s stomach.
Even if you use all-natural or organic products, there are certain ingredients that can be harmful to your cat.
Even as a human, would you drink your shampoo? It makes sense to make sure that your cat does not excessively lick your hair.
Of course, even with safety is not a factor, you may not want this behavior.
Cats licking may disrupt you from sleeping or even hurt a bit. Cats have a very rough tongue, and it can aggravate the skin or even instigate an allergic reaction in some individuals.
Plus, you don’t want to wake up with cat drool all over you every morning. In these cases, you may want to consider taking steps to reduce the amount of licking your cat does.
How To Stop Your Cat From Licking Your Hair
As any cat owner will tell you, training a cat is tedious. Cats are notoriously difficult to train and very strong-willed. It’s also difficult as any attention is often good attention in their eyes.
If you try petting your cat or shoving them away, they may take this behavior as a “thank you.” It may actually defeat the purpose and entice your cat to lick you even more! Cats are funny in this way.
Punishing by yelling or screaming is also not a good way to go. While it may be effective in letting your cat know that this is not okay with you, scaring your cat can negatively impact the relationship you have with them.
Instead of associating the screaming with licking, they’ll likely just associate it with you and avoid you altogether.
So, there is really only one behavior you can try out to convince them to leave you alone. ‘Nothing.’
What you want to do is ignore your cat. In their eyes, any level of attention can be interpreted as a reward.
So, you need to give them the exact opposite of attention. Pull away from them or walk away from a situation.
This is a language that cats are familiar with. You may notice that they practice it as well, as you may have noticed.
Walking away from something they are uninterested in (or is uncomfortable to them) is a clear and natural message. Of course, some cats have a little difficulty getting the picture.
For cats that still continue to do this, you may need to take some extra measures. Using a repulsive, such as “a bitter apple,” may encourage them to back off a bit. Cats tend to dislike the smell of citrus fruits, especially.
Even though they are harmless, cats have n evolutionarily based repulsion from citrus.
Using it in your hair or having it on your hands can discourage them from it. They don’t like the smell and may even just appreciate you from afar after that.
Cats are funny pets that have so many interesting behaviors. Licking is one such example, but it is something that is innately important to them for many reasons.
While the licking of your hair can be strange and even alarming, one positive takeaway from all of this is that it shows that they trust you.
So, if you notice that your cat is constantly licking you, just take it as a nice sign that they love you and are happy to have you around.
Whether you should continue to let them do it is another matter entirely, however.
At the end of the day, the safety of your cat comes first; so it is advised not to let them do this.
While cats often lick other cats and humans, licking a cat back is not advised. You are only likely to stress your cat, your saliva will not smell right to them and your tongue will feel too different. Equally, it is not a hygienic thing to do and you may even ingest bacteria and other harmful germs depending on where your cat has been and what they may have lied-down in.
If your cat is licking your hair after a shower, then it is likely they are smelling something in your hair they want to taste. Perhaps you have used shampoo, conditioner, or other products that they are attracted to and by.
Have other questions relating to your cat and their behavior? Then my following guides may be of help:
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.