Discovering your cat tugging and gnawing on your hair as you lay in bed or watch television can take you by surprise. This behavior normally is nothing to be overly concerned about, and is typically a sign of affection from your pet.
In most cases of owner hair chewing, your cat is simply trying to socialize. Cats use grooming to socialize with each other, by licking each other's faces and heads. Your pet views you as a friend and shows this affection by grooming you. This is the same reason your cat may lick your arm or face, or rub up against you. It's his way of saying “I like you.”
A less innocent reason for your cat's interest in your hair could involve an obsessive compulsion called pica. This occurs when your cat performs behaviors such as sucking, chewing or eating non-food materials, including your hair. A form of self-calming behavior, pica may occur when your cat is stressed or in a situation he is uncomfortable with.
When to Worry
You typically shouldn't worry about your cat giving your hair a good once over every now and then, as it's usually normal social grooming behavior. If you notice your cat making a beeline for your head the moment you sit down, it could be a sign that he's feeling stressed or starved for affection. Watch for signs of intestinal upset, as swallowing your hair, especially if it's long, could cause an increase in the number and size of hairballs or the possibility of blockage.
To change this chewing behavior, you must identify what may have caused it. If your cat seems lonely, play with him more often or find him a playmate. Some cats simply like to chew, so buy him some appropriate chew toys and swap them out regularly to keep him interested. Plant some catnip or other cat-safe grasses in a small pot to let him chew as he needs without danger. Offer him a safe place to escape to, such as a quiet bedroom or bathroom, if he feels stressed because of schedule or routine changes.
- cat image by Giovanni Aquaro from Fotolia.com