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Why Do Cats Eat Hair?

Why Do Cats Eat Hair?

Being a pet owner can be a tedious task at times. You have to look after your pet with immense care and love. Also, you have to painstakingly take note of some behavioral changes that your pets could exhibit. Cats are admirable and agreeable and are mostly subtle when showing their affection. However, they could still show some abnormal behaviors. This includes licking, chewing, or eating hair. 

This behavior could be for simple reasons like playing around with the owner or gaining attention from them. But it could also be because of some medical conditions, including stress. Today, we will dive deep into this topic, get insight into the causes of this behavior, and get to know more about how to handle the situation.

Why Does My Cat Eat Hair?

Cats licking or eating hair could be normal to an extent. But, if they keep on going for an excessive amount, then it’s better to understand the cause of the issue and get proper consultation from a vet. Below are some of the common reasons that make a cat eat hair.

  • Playing Around or Trying to Grab Your Attention

Hair is not an appetizing thing to consume, even for pets like cats. So, if your cat is doing this daily, especially when it knows you’re looking at it, it might be a sign that it wants you to pay attention to it. They could also be just playing around and taking it as an opportunity to bond with the owner.

  • Trying to Teach You to Groom and Bond Over the Process

Cats generally are animals that tend to lick and groom each other. It is a part of their nature, and sometimes they do this to their owners as well. Cats living in groups use an allogrooming technique, a form of physical contact when giving care. 

Therefore, by chewing and licking the hair, they show their affection and bond towards you. They also teach us how to groom them, making us a part of their colony.

Two cats laying together
  • Attempting to Pass Over Its Scent to You

Cats have different ways of showcasing their affection and love towards others. By chewing, licking, or rubbing against your head, it might be trying to transfer its unique scent to you. This is a way of showing their love and claiming you as their own.

  • It Might Be Hungry

Another common cause for the cats to chew on the hair could be just because they are hungry. As mentioned earlier, cats show unique ways of communicating with their owner. They could rub or chew on the hair when it is time for their meal but they still haven’t gotten it. They could also exhibit other behaviors to let you know how they feel in these situations. Giving them meals at the proper time will help manage this issue if this is the case.

  • It Might Be in Stress

It’s normal for cats to chew on hair when they are under stress. This might be due to a new environment or a new situation to which they must eventually adjust. By chewing on the hair, they might feel relief from anxiety or stress by releasing endorphins. If by any chance, this is the reason for your cat to chew on hair, it’s better to analyze why it is under stress. This will redeem the problem and help them lessen their anxiety or fear-induced psychological factors.

  • Due to Pica

While this habit could result from psychological issues, it could also be due to other health issues like having pica. Pica in cats is the behavioral urge to consume non-edible materials such as hair binders, plastic, cardboard, etc. 

It is mainly common in young cats and could be caused due to nutritional deficiencies, early weaning, and pregnancy. Sometimes, pica could be passed through genetics as well. It is easy to understand if your cat has pica. In this case, it will not just swallow hair but also grind it with its back teeth.

  • Due to an Overactive Thyroid Gland

Hyperthyroidism in cats could be common. This is due to the increased production of the thyroxine hormone, produced from an enlarged thyroid gland in the neck. The symptoms of this health condition include hair eating. However, this is just one of the prominent ones. Other symptoms that result from hyperthyroidism are:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Diarrhea 
  • Excessive thirst and increased urination
  • Weight loss and poor fur quality

The treatment for hyperthyroidism usually involves surgery. If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms and eats hair, it’s better to take it immediately to a vet.

  • It Might Have Weaned too Early

The cats that might have weaned too early could have many health issues, including behavioral problems. These cats show symptoms of these habits because it’s difficult to groom themselves. 

A significant part of a cat’s life is when its mother teaches how to groom it independently. So, when a kitten is removed from its mother too early, it will miss out on this important lesson. This implies that the cats must live with their mothers for at least eight weeks. 

White cat

Is Eating Hair Normal Among Cats?

Now that we know the causes for this behavior, the next common question that comes to our mind is whether it is normal or not. While it is not always concerning that cats consume hair, it could sometimes be due to health issues, as we discussed before.

Therefore, it is advisable to get to the bottom of the issue as soon as possible. Always consult a vet and get proper guidance. This is because consuming hair could lead to other problems in your cat, especially gut issues. Human hair is not essentially harmful to cats, but it is always better to be one step ahead than be ignorant of your pet.

What Could Happen if Your Cat Consumes a Lot of Hair?

We already discussed that human hair is not toxic to the cat in the previous section. Still, it could be troublesome, especially when it comes to digestive problems. Human hair consists of keratin, an insoluble protein, and cats can’t digest it. 

In the case of tiny strands of hair, they get expelled through the process of excretion or vomiting. But if it is a large amount of hair, then there is a high chance it could get blocked in your cat’s small intestine, and impossible to take it out without surgery.

The following symptoms will help you recognize if your cat has consumed a large amount of hair and feels sick. 

  • Refuses to eat anything for many days
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Difficulty in breathing properly
  • Vomiting

It would also be better to look at the hair products that you use so that it won’t lead to any significant harm to the cats, even if they end up swallowing the hair.

How to Prevent Your Cat From Eating Hair?

Even though it might not be a big concern most of the time, it is better to prevent this behavior as early as possible. The owner can try to take some measures to achieve this. Please make sure that you are not being rude or angry towards your cat because it could increase its stress level. Let’s discuss some simple ways through which we can eventually make the cats stop consuming hair daily.

  • Get to the Bottom of the Issue

It is better to understand the cause of your cat to eat hair. This could be due to normal circumstances or maybe medical conditions. Hence, it is required for the owner to get to know the reason and act upon it as soon as possible. 

However, the only reason might be your cat trying to show affection and love towards you in some cases. In those cases, try not to intervene and allow it to continue to do its thing without any significant harm. In contrast to the health issues, these simple reasons would be just their way of giving care and showing trust in you.

Cat laying on window
  • Try to Distract Your Cat

Cats are a big fan of physical and mental stimulation. You can use various toys and games to make your cat distract and turn their concentration. You can use this method whenever your cat comes near the hair or tries to groom you. 

Throw its favorite toy or snack and try to get its attention to the food rather than the hair. This method is not always ideal, but it does help to prevent this behavior to an extent. But be careful not to feed your cat too much, which could lead to weight gain issues.

  • Discourage the Behavior Calmly

It is essential to discourage your cat when it tries to chew on your hair. When this happens, try to move immediately and stop encouraging. You should stop petting in these situations to avoid confusion with your pet. If you keep showing encouraging signs, it might get confused and keep doing the same thing. 

  • Try to Lessen Their Stress

If the bottom reason is stress or anxiety, try your best to give your pet a proper environment and medical help to redeem the stress. This could be the reason for many circumstantial issues like moving to a new place or getting uncomfortable around strangers. Providing them a safe place to hide or protect them helps calm this anxiety. 

The stress could also be an effect of wanting to go outdoors and play. Most cats tend to spend time outside, even if they are domesticated. The only thing you as an owner can do is help them to ease into their comfort and do whatever you can for them.

  • Look Into the Hair Products That You Use

The hair products that you use could have both harmful and other effects on your pet. Sometimes, cats enjoy the taste and smell of certain shampoos and conditioners. So, always keep a check when they exhibit this behavior. If it is due to the usage of a particular product, try to use it less or, if possible, avoid it. 

You can avoid your cat from swallowing the hair by using citrus and mint-scented products. They tend to stay away from the smell of citrus and mint-scented products. Hence try to use those products for a while to help your cat break this habit.

Do Cats Eat Their Own Hair?

During the process of grooming, cats usually lick their fur. They try their best not to swallow their fur in this process but end up swallowing it at times. It is hard for the cats to spit out every piece of hair they eat, which is very common in long-haired cats. 

So, in short, cats do eat their own fur at times. 

We already know that hair is not something that cats can digest, so if they eat a lot, it will result in a hairball. Hairball further results in digestive issues in cats, so it is advisable to use products that will help them digest their food quickly. 

Do Certain Breeds of Cats Eat Hair More Than the Others?

To answer this, we have to know that kittens usually tend to have the habit of chewing or biting on hair. Other than that, breeds like Siamese and Burmese exhibit behaviors of biting hair and other materials like paper quite a lot. You have to keep a keen eye when they exhibit this behavior the most. 

If it is during cuddling or having fun, it is just them showing their affection, and it is not a big concerning issue. You have to be concerned when their behavior changes significantly and suddenly without any natural explanation. And this will be your call to get an appointment with your vet immediately.

Conclusion

To conclude, cats eating or consuming hair is inevitable to an extent. So, it is indeed a matter of concern for the owners. Your goal as an owner should be to find the root cause of this unusual behavior in your pet. You must act on it as soon as possible and consult a vet to further know more information. 

Try to understand that most of the time, the reason might be just your cat trying to show you affection. In those cases, you don’t need to panic but at the same time, try to eventually discourage this habit. But if it is due to medical conditions, be there for your pet. Try to provide as much comfort as you can to them. Keeping an eye on the products you use and making sure everything is safe for your pet is also crucial.