I’ve only had experience with one cat licking my hair before, and if I had to guess, I never would’ve put my bet on this particular cat being the one to like licking my hair.
The cat in question is our youngest cat, Cleo, who we’ve been looking after since she was literally born in our back garden.
She’s the hyperactive type, who I’ll often joke is practically feral because of how flighty she is and how little she likes to be picked up (even if it’s just to transfer her to another room to eat her dinner).
She’s the least cuddly of all our cats. Doesn’t like cuddling unless it’s on her terms, and even then, in the shortest bouts you could ever imagine, accompanied by a lot of flighty, timid yet adorable behaviour.
It’s sweet, but definitely different from the other snuggle bugs in my home!
Cleo also doesn’t allogroom the other kitties in the house (i.e. lick and groom them), though she plays with the other cats a lot and will sometimes be on the receiving end of grooming by them.
That being said, ever since she was a wee kitten, I discovered if I hold her to my chest, and my hair is dangling in front of her face, she’ll almost certainly grab ahold of my locks and start licking away, as though I’m her kitten rather than the other way around.
It’s the sweetest behaviour ever, and I’m guessing once she’s older, she may use this technique of licking my hair to wake me up in the morning, like my mum’s cat Walker does most days.
Why cats do this is something we don’t know for sure. We can still theorize, however, which I like to do with a lot of quirky cat behaviours.
I’ve written articles theorizing why cats do certain things – like sitting on human chests and biting human feet – even behaviours similar to licking human hair, like licking human faces, chewing on their pet parents’ fingers, licking human hands, biting then licking their humans, or nibbling on their humans in general.
Who knows, maybe one day scientists will dig into these topics and do research on them so we’ll find out the true reasons behind these behaviours.
Until then, it’s really fun to make guesses and collect ideas as to why these behaviours pop up in so many cats.
In my mind, there’s no way the behaviour of cats licking human hair has one explanation behind it. Same with all the other cat behaviours.
It seems more likely to me that there are a slew of different reasons why some cats do these quirky things that come together to form a full explanation.
Let me know if you think a specific combination of these theories is the likely explanation, if you’ve come up with any more theories, or if you have any stories that shed light on this behaviour.
If you have a moment, take some time to leave these theories or stories in the comments down below.
I know I’m not the only one who enjoys reading them, and those who have cats with similar behaviours often scroll down to the comments to see if their cats are doing things the same way, or engage in the behaviour a little differently from a lot of the other kitty cats around.
Let’s get into the theories I think could possibly explain why some cats lick their humans’ hair!
13 Theories About Why Cats Lick Their Humans’ Hair
1. Cats may like the taste of a shampoo, conditioner, or other hair product you use.
My cat Bjorn likes to lick some types of soap. I think it’s because of the ingredients in the soap – maybe the oil and fat in them?
To get around this problem, I bought citrus and lavender smelling soaps, as my cats, like most cats, absolutely hate the smell of orange and other citrus, as well as lavender. Bjorn hasn’t tried to lick soaps since the switch.
I’m sure there are some shampoos that, like the soap I was using, attract felines to them due to their ingredients.
My solution to Bjorn licking soap can also be used if you have a cat who licks your hair when you’re not a fan of this behaviour. Simply get a shampoo or shampoo & conditioner combo that smells of citrus, like grapefruit for example, or lavender if you like that scent more.
Even if your cat isn’t attracted to your hair because of the taste of your shampoo, conditioner, or other hair product (like coconut oil!), if you use a shampoo that smells of something your cat dislikes, you have a very good chance of changing your cat’s behaviour, encouraging them to stay away from the licking hair behaviour altogether.
2. Cats who lick hair may love the taste of hair.
Besides the shampoo you’re using, the oils your scalp produces or your hair itself could taste good to cats who like licking hair.
3. Cats may enjoy the texture of human hair, causing them to want to lick it.
Human hair is sleek and similar, yet different from cat hair.
Some cats may be drawn to this texture, finding it enjoyable to lick because of how smooth it is.
4. A cat may lick human hair as a form of grooming them.
If you have a cat who likes to lick your hair, it may be a form of grooming you, the same way cats groom themselves and sometimes other cats.
5. Licking could be a behaviour left-over from kittenhood.
Kittens will often lick and groom their mothers as they grow. They’ll begin to lick and groom themselves as well, to my knowledge around roughly the same time.
This habit of cleaning mum may have continued past their childhood into adulthood, and they may be cleaning you as though you were their own mother.
6. Licking your hair could also be a method of stress-reduction, relaxation, and calming down.
There’s a chance that licking your hair is one of these behaviours, and that stress reduction plays a role, big or small, in why your cat likes to lick your or other humans in your households’ hair.
7. Grooming their human is a sign that you’re one of the clan.
Cats don’t lick and groom felines outside their social group.
They will only allogroom (groom another cat), that’s in what they deem to be their clowder, and as a result, if your cat is grooming you, this is only happening because he or she considers you one of the clan.
If you have a cat who licks and grooms a new individual’s hair, it may be that he or she feels the newcomer to also be part of the family or tight knit group. Trust definitely plays a part in this.
8. Grooming also may be used as a form of showing you affection.
While there’s no way to know for sure, a lot of pet parents (myself included) believe licking and grooming in general by a cat to be an act of love and a sign of affection.
It makes a lot of sense if you’ve experienced this behaviour from a cat who loves you firsthand.
It’s almost impossible not to interpret the behaviour in this way, especially when it’s accompanied by happy purrs, cuddles, and other similar, positive, behaviours and actions.
Maybe cats are grooming us because they love us and as a sign of affection. Maybe it’s part of the explanation.
It’s possible it’s not a true explanation for the behaviour, but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t.
9. Your cat grooming you could be a sign your cat sees him or herself as dominant over you.
Cats who lick and groom each other in the household don’t seem to do it only to show affection, to help each other keep clean, or other completely altruistic purposes.
Actually, a lot of times, the more dominant cat in the household will allogroom less dominant cats – meaning it’s likely dominance has a big role in grooming between cats.
If this is true, which it’s likely to be, it may also mean your cat licking and grooming you could be a sign he or she sees him or herself as dominant over you.
Let me know what you think of this one, and if you have any cats at home who you feel really do see you as subservient to them.
I know a lot of people report having bossy cats who seem to think they’re the head of the household (maybe they are, haha!).
Are your dominant cats the ones who lick your hair?
10. Your cat may lick your hair as a way of marking you as his or her territory.
Cats scent and sometimes will even urinate to mark things as their territory.
Their saliva also contains their smell, and so it would make sense that licking things may also be a form of marking things as their territory – telling other cats that essentially a person, place, or thing is theirs.
If you have a cat who’s regularly quite protective or territorial over you, do let me know in the comments if this is the same cat who licks your hair.
Do you think there’s a connection? Does it make sense to you that territorial marking may be a part of the explanation for why your cat licks your hair?
11. Some cats may really enjoy the act of licking.
My cat Bjorn, who licked soap and who also licks my hands and fingers sometimes when I’m petting him, I do think really enjoys the act of licking.
That being said, he never licks my hair (or hasn’t yet), and the cat who does lick my hair (Cleo) doesn’t lick other things or my hands and fingers very often.
Let me know if the cat in your home who licks your hair also seems to enjoy licking and/or grooming other things? What types of things does your cat lick besides hair?
Are there there are other cats you know or in your household who lick plenty of things, but not hair? Would love to hear your thoughts.
12. Your cat may be trying to get attention by licking your hair.
It does seem that cats do things like lick and groom their humans, or nibble or bite on their humans to get attention at a particular moment.
It’s not the strongest argument in my example, and often you can tell when a cat does this for attention, I would thing, as a cat would stop licking your hair once you gave him or her what she wanted (the attention).
Still, it’s a possibility I thought was important to list.
13. Or trying to get something in particular, like you waking up to play or feed them, with the licking.
A lot of pet parents seem to report their cats licking their hair early in the morning, when their cats want them to get out of bed.
Based on these firsthand experiences, a lot of pet parents seem to think their cats lick their hair to wake them up in order to be fed, to be played with, or just in general to be entertained because they are bored.
This definitely makes sense to me, especially if cats really only do this in the morning hours, and if it’s roughly the time you would wake up in the morning.
Let me know if you or someone you know is woken up in the morning by a cat licking their hair, and what you think that cat wants – food, entertainment, cuddles, play, or something else.
Your Thoughts on Cats Licking Human Hair?
Why do you think cats lick human hair? Have you met any cats that do this?
Do you find this is a common behaviour amongst cats or just a few cats you’ve met seem to do it, but quite often?
If you have cats who lick your hair, which cats do it? When do they typically do it? Why do you think they’re doing it?
Would love to hear your thoughts, stories, and theories in the comments down below!