We got used to cats doing some pretty weird things, like hissing without an apparent reason, peeing outside their litter boxes, eating human food, and so on. But why do cats eat their hair? Is it dangerous? Will they digest it or not? Do you have to take your fluff to the vet immediately?
Calm down, we’ll answer one question at a time. Before we start talking about all the reasons why cats munch on their fur, you have to be aware that this is not reserved only for longed-hair felines, but for those with short hair, too. So, let’s start. I assume that the first thing you want to know is…
Why do cats eat their hair?
Since this is the main reason why you’re here, I’m not going to bother you much. Let’s find out why is your cat eating her precious fur even though her food bowl is always full.
1. She’s grooming herself
Obviously, the most common reason why cats eat their hair is this one – they’re grooming themselves! Don’t panic if your fluff swallows a hair or two while she’s cleaning herself. Those will come out either in her poop or in a form of hairballs.
When a cat is trying to get rid of hairballs, she may make some weird noises and gag a bit. That may scare you (I admit it scared me for the first time when Nora did that!), but you’ll get used to it eventually. In case you notice that it’s taking her a bit too long to spit the ball out, don’t hesitate to contact the vet.
2. Problems with parasites
Fleas, worms, and ticks may “attack” your fluff. Sometimes, cats will bite themselves when they’re trying to get rid of them. During that process, your furbaby may consume more hair than she normally would.
This mostly happens to outdoor cats and those fluffs without proper parasite protection. If your lady was sneaking out from time to time to hang out with stray cats, pay attention to her behavior. Excessive scratching, biting, and grooming will reveal her secret (and parasites too).
3. She’s stressed or anxious
Cats are extremely intelligent creatures, but sometimes they do stupid things, especially when they’re stressed or anxious. Eating their hair in those situations is something they tend to do.
So, if you know that your fluff may be under stress, or that she has anxiety problems, try to solve them. Keep in mind that even some minor changes can upset her. So, what’s not scary for you may be terrifying for your feline.
Pay attention to other symptoms as well, like loss of appetite, possible hiding around the house, and defecating outside her litter box. All of these can tell you that something’s wrong and that you should conduct your own investigation and find the culprit.
4. It was an accident
Most of the time, the answer to the question “Why do cats eat their hair?” will be something like “It just happened”, or “She accidentally swallowed it”. Believe it or not, it’s completely true.
Almost every single hair that ends up in a cat’s stomach was ingested by accident. She was probably grooming herself and after some time, she couldn’t get it out, so she swallowed it. You know how hair can be annoying when you’re trying to take it off of your hands, right?
5. She has a nutrient deficiency
If your fluff is eating her hair a lot, a nutrient deficiency may be the problem. This usually happens in younger cats and those felines that are expecting, but it doesn’t exclude the rest. Because they lack some of the nutrients, they’ll have weird cravings.
She may lack iron, fatty acids (Omega-3 or Omega-6), vitamin A, zinc, and some proteins, too. Try to avoid dry food for some time and give her high-quality meals, especially if you just picked her up from the street.
6. She has dry skin
This is also tightly related to the diet your cat has and her water-drinking habits. If she doesn’t ingest enough high-value nutrients, her skin may get dry. You’ll also notice her fur isn’t as shiny as it used to be, and she’ll scratch and bite herself often, too.
Of course, other things can cause dry skin as well, such as parasites, ringworm, allergies, or some fungal and bacterial infections. All of this will make your fluff’s skin super itchy, and every attempt to ease the struggle may end with eating some hair.
7. She’s bored
She’s bored, what’s not clear? Take those toys and play with her! When cats get bored, they’ll do a lot of things they normally don’t do. In this case, your fluffer will eat her hair. She may also groom herself too often.
This will result in losing her fur and your cat’s hair will be everywhere, but most importantly right under her nose. So, she can eat it. Make sure that this doesn’t happen, at least not often. I mean, it’s something you can easily solve and control, right? Buy her a cat tree and ease your worries.
8. She has some health issues
I know that this is the scariest part when you notice your feline doing something suspicious.
However, one of the reasons why cats eat their hair may be that they have some health issues. Indeed, some of them are minor, and you have nothing to stress about (at least not too much), but there are other severe diseases that may be the cause.
Feline-acquired symmetric alopecia is actually a syndrome that makes cats lose their fur, and it’s usually a symptom of something more serious, like allergies or dermatitis. Fungal and bacterial infections may also be the reason why your cat is shedding excessively and eating her hair.
Thyroid problems and cancer sound terrifying, but they can also be the root of the problem. None of us want to hear this, but you shouldn’t panic. Rather, stay calm and take your kitty to the vet. He or she will give you the best advice and a correct diagnosis.
9. She wants attention
Felines will try to get your attention in a zillion different ways. They’ll scratch your favorite sofa, pee on your bathroom rug, or munch on your dance shoes. Basically, they’ll try to annoy you and get you to notice them.
Some cats, however, will eat their hair. Apparently, your fluff chose this method. If you’re staying out of the house most of the day because of work, try to dedicate some time to your feline. They have feelings too, and she may feel lonely, so that’s why she’s trying to get your attention. I mean, it worked, right?
10. She has Pica
Last but not least, if your cat eats her hair, she may have pica. That’s a cognitive disorder, and it actually makes her eat all the things she shouldn’t be eating. Therefore, you may see her munching on plastic bags, chewing on your shoes, or eating her hair.
How to stop your cat from eating her hair?
So, we’ve covered all the possible reasons why cats eat their hair, and now is the time to learn how to stop our felines from doing exactly that. In some rare cases, it will be a bit complicated. But usually, it’s a fairly easy process.
As usual with these possible solutions that I’m giving you, if one of them doesn’t work, you have more options to try. The thing is, each feline is different and some things may work out for my Nora, for example, but won’t work out for your fluff.
It’s really important that you don’t give up and that you have loads of patience, since the whole process may take some time. Okay, here are some ways to stop your cat from eating her hair. I hope these will work for you. Good luck!
1. Change her diet
The first thing that you can do is to change her diet. We’ve mentioned before that she may lack some of the really important nutrients, so serving her high-value meals may make a change. It will help her skin and her fur will be shiny and healthy.
She won’t scratch or groom herself often, so it will be less possible for her to ingest her hair.
2. Add some supplements to her meals
When we started talking about the reasons why cats munch on their hair, we mentioned that they may have some mineral or vitamin deficiency. If you add some supplements to her meals, things can change.
But, don’t do this on your own. Rather, take her for a check-up and follow the instructions your vet gives you.
3. Try to remove stress triggers
As we’ve mentioned, stress can greatly influence your furbaby. Therefore, if that’s the reason why your cat is eating her hair, remove the stressors from her surroundings. I know that it may be difficult (I mean, you can’t move back to the old house, can you?), but you can try to make her life easier.
Figure out what’s bothering her and slowly solve the problem, or help her get used to it.
4. Help her when she’s grooming
Even though cats are self-sufficient and can take care of themselves, it would be perfect if you could use the brush from time to time and help them. Your fluff will be grateful, your home cleaner, and the bond between the two of you stronger.
Do this at least twice a week, and you’ll greatly reduce the amount of hair your cat can eat. Benefits everywhere, right?
5. Give her toys
Let’s be real, who doesn’t like toys? Since boredom can be one of the reasons why your cat is eating her hair, providing her with enough entertainment will keep her away from that behavior. If you can’t buy her expensive toys or scratch posts, improvise and try to make some at home.
You can always extend her playtime hours, so she’ll feel the love and affection you have for her. If she’s socializing enough, whether it’s with you or some other feline, she’ll generally feel better, and she’ll drop these weird habits.
6. Get her an Elizabethan collar
This is not a permanent solution and it’s definitely not the most comfortable one. But, sometimes it’s the only thing that you can do. If your cat is eating her hair in large amounts and it takes a lot of time to figure out what’s happening, get a cone of shame and put it on her.
I know that it will be strange to look at her with something around her head, but just keep thinking about it as something that is there to help her.
7. Clean your house more often
If there’s no hair, she has nothing to eat, right? Cats are extremely curious creatures, and they will carefully try everything in their surroundings – from food to different activities.
So, if you notice that she’s excessively consuming her hair, clean your house more often. Vacuum cleaners, lint rollers, and air purifiers may help you with that, too.
8. Consult a vet
Last but not least, if you still haven’t figured out why do cats eat their hair, just stop and visit your vet. It’s not a shame to ask for help. The experts surely know a thing or two more, so consulting with them will greatly help you, especially if you’re a first-time pet owner.
Also, in case your vet suspects that something more serious can be the culprit for her hair eating, he’ll react on time and discover what it is before it’s too late.
Is it dangerous for cats to eat their hair?
Truth be told, it’s not. I mean, there wouldn’t be any place in kitty’s heaven left if even the shortest hair could hurt your fluff that much. However, you have to pay attention to the amount of hair your cat has ingested.
Of course, if your cat eats her hair, she’ll simply poop it, or spit it out in a form of hairballs. But, swallowing a lot of hair may cause vomiting and other stomach problems that could eventually lead to some severe issues.
Why do cats eat their hairballs?
There’s one theory that cats are actually eating their hair to keep the predators away. While doing so, they are trying to erase even the smallest evidence that they were present at a certain place. I know that your indoor cat has no problems with predators, but she has some in-born instincts, you know.
Why is my cat munching on my hair?
There can be a couple of reasons why she’s doing that, and most of them are pretty adorable. She could be munching on your hair to show you how much she loves you, or to get your attention because she wants you to play with her.
It could also happen that she’s trying to calm herself down. Cats don’t like changes and since you’re her hooman, you’re technically her safe space. She’ll snuggle into your hug and instinctively start chewing your hair. Don’t blame her, rather hold her and comfort her.
Now that you know why your cat keeps eating her fur, you can help your fluff to solve the problem. If she’s doing this because she’s bored or wants your attention, don’t think twice before you snuggle or play with her.
Spending time with your furbaby actually has health benefits, so why would you deny yourself that?