Here’s the typical scenario: you’re sound asleep in bed when a very strange feeling wakes you up. You reach up to your head and feel that a section of your hair is wet. Looking over, you see your cat’s face. She looks at you for a moment and then goes back to what she was doing – licking your hair. You realize, by the soggy strands of hair on your head, that kitty has probably been doing that for quite a while. Why would a cat want to repeatedly keep licking your hair?
Allogrooming is a common behavior between cats who have a bond. It’s not unusual to see two cats engage in a session of licking each other’s head and neck. I have watched as the recipient of the licking closes her eyes and almost seems to drift off into dreamland.
For some cats who are very bonded with particular family members, the social behavior of hair licking is very normal, and of course, since the biggest crop of hair can be found on the head, that’s where they camp out.
Appealing Taste or Scent
For other cats, certain hair products such as shampoo, hair spray, hair gels, etc., may hold a certain appeal as far as taste or scent. Some cats may engage in licking the hair of their cat parent just because they like that particular “flavor.”
How to Stop the Hair Licking Behavior
First, the most important thing to remember is to not reinforce the very behavior you don’t want from your cat. If you pet her or talk to her when she’s licking your hair then you’re sending the message that this is a welcomed act on her part.
Move yourself away from the cat. If you’re in bed, place a pillow between you. If you’re sitting in a chair and kitty is behind you licking away, stand up and move. Show your cat that when she engages in this particular behavior she loses your company.
If you have been able to pinpoint that certain hair products may be the culprit, switch to ones with no scent or a scent that isn’t so cat friendly. Cats generally don’t like the smell of citrus so look for shampoos and gels that have a lemon scent.
If your cat has a pattern of licking your hair at the same time each day (such as when you’re in bed or when you sit in your favorite chair to watch TV), provide her with a puzzle feeder right before you settle down.
Need More Information?
For more information on cat training and cat behavior problems, refer to any of Pam’s books, including Think Like a Cat.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.