Why Do Cats Eat Their Hair? Quench Your Curiosity Now

Cats are known for their meticulous grooming habits. They lick their fur for hours on end to keep it clean and lustrous. However, occasionally cats may overgroom to the point that they eat their own hair.

Intestinal blockages, vitamin deficiencies, and hairballs are just a few of the health problems that can arise from this. How come cats eat their own hair then? What and how can you do to stop them?

We will look at potential causes for cats to eat their own hair in this post, as well as symptoms and treatments for excessive hair consumption.

Why Do Cats Eat Their Hair?

There are numerous factors that can cause cats to eat their hair, ranging from physical to psychological. Here are some of the most common ones:

Overgrooming

Cats overgrooming themselves is one of the main causes of cats eating their own hair. When cats overgroom, they lick their fur too much, frequently to the point that bald patches or skin irritation result. Several things, including the following, can contribute to overgrooming:

Cats overgrooming
  • Anxiety and stress: As a coping technique, cats who are anxious or stressed may overgroom themselves. Numerous factors, such as environment changes, the appearance of new animals or people, loud noises, or a lack of focus, can lead to stress.

    Endorphins, which are happy-making natural compounds, can be released by cats when they are overgroomed.
  • Boredom: Cats who are bored may overgroom themselves. When cats don’t have enough excitement, enrichment, or social interaction, boredom may result into destructive behavior. Overgrooming can keep cats entertained and give them something to do.
  • Skin issues: To ease irritation or discomfort brought on by skin conditions including allergies, infections, parasites, or wounds, cats may overgroom themselves. Overgrooming can aid cats in removing allergens or in soothing skin inflammation.
  • Nutrient deficiency: Cats who consume insufficient amounts of specific nutrients, such as protein, fatty acids, zinc, or vitamin A, may overgroom themselves. The maintenance of healthy skin and fur depends on these nutrients.

    These vitamin deficiencies can lead to dryness, dullness, or brittleness of the fur, which can prompt cats to lick their fur more frequently.
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Pica

Cats who suffer from a disorder known as pica also consume their own hair. Cats with this disorder will consume non-food objects including hair, dirt, paper, plastic, or fabric. Several things, including the following, can lead to pica.

Pica in cats
  • Nutrient deficiency: As mentioned above, a lack of certain nutrients in the diet can cause pica in cats. This is because cats may crave non-food items that contain the nutrients they are missing. For example, cats may eat hair because it contains protein or iron.
  • Genetics: Parental inheritance is another source of pica. Siamese, Oriental, and Burmese cat breeds are among those that are more susceptible to pica than others.
  • Medical issues: Pica may also be a sign of underlying conditions that impact the brain or the digestive system. For instance, cats with brain tumors,[1] hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)[2] may eat hair.

Attention-seeking

Attention seeking cats

Cats’ desire for their owners’ attention is the third reason they chew their own hair. Cats sometimes eat their own hair to elicit a response from their owners or to let them know they need something. Cats, for instance, may eat their hair out of boredom, thirst, hunger, or loneliness.

Signs and Symptoms of Excessive Hair Ingestion

 Symptoms of Excessive Hair Ingestion

Eating hair occasionally is not harmful for cats. However, eating too much hair can cause various health problems for cats. Some of the signs and symptoms of excessive hair ingestion are:

  • Hairballs: Hairballs (Trichobezoars) are collections of hair that develop in cats’ intestines or stomachs. Cats who have hairballs may experience nausea, gagging, coughing, or retching. Hairballs in cats can also result in an appetite loss, weight loss, dehydration, or lethargic behavior.
  • Intestinal blockage: When hair blocks the movement of food or waste through the intestines, it is said to be intestinal obstruction. In cats, intestinal obstruction can result in severe abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or blood in the feces. In addition, an intestinal obstruction in cats might result in shock, coma, or death.
  • Nutrient deficiency: When hair prevents nutrients from food from being absorbed in the intestines, there is a nutritional shortage. Insufficient nutrition in cats can result in issues with their immune systems, anemia, frailty, and poor growth.
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How to Prevent and Treat Cats Eating Their Hair?

Preventing Cats Eating Their Hair

When hair prevents nutrients from food from being absorbed in the intestines, there is a nutritional shortage. Insufficient nutrition in cats can result in issues with their immune systems, anemia, frailty, and poor growth.

  • Diet change: The vet might advise switching your cat’s diet to one that is more wholesome and well-balanced. This can enhance the health of your cat’s skin and coat and help prevent or treat nutritional deficiencies.

    According on the veterinarian’s recommendations, you might also need to add vitamins, minerals, or fatty acids to your cat’s food.
  • Medication: Any underlying medical conditions that cause your cat to pica or overgroom may be treated with medication by the vet.

    If a pet has skin problems, the veterinarian may provide antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs, or parasiticides; if a pet has hormonal problems, the doctor may prescribe hormones, insulin, or steroids.
  • Behavior modification: A behavior modification program may be recommended by the vet to get your cat to quit chewing on its own fur.

    For instance, in order to keep your cat from being bored or stressed out, you might need to provide him/her extra stimulation, enrichment, or social engagement.

    Additionally, you might need to use deterrents like bitter sprays or shift your cat’s attention to other pursuits like playing with toys or eating goodies in order to stop them from chewing your hair.
  • Grooming: Regular cat grooming is another way that you may aid your cat. In order to keep dogs from eating loose hair, grooming can help remove it from their coat.

    To gently and completely groom your cat, use a brush or comb. To maintain your cat’s coat healthy and parasite-free, you can also use a specific shampoo or conditioner made only for cats.
Grooming cats

FAQs

Why is there hair in my cat’s poop?

Hair in your cat’s poop is normal and indicates that your cat is grooming themselves. However, if you see too much hair in your cat’s poop or if your cat has difficulty passing stool, it could indicate that they have a hairball or an intestinal blockage. In that case, you should take them to the veterinarian for treatment.

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Can cats digest hair?

Cats cannot digest hair completely. Hair is made of keratin, which is a protein that is resistant to digestive enzymes. Therefore, some of the hair that cats ingest will pass through their digestive system and come out in their feces.

However, some of the hair may accumulate in their stomach or intestines and form hairballs or blockages.

Why do cats eat their hair?

Cats eat their hair for various reasons, such as overgrooming, pica, or attention-seeking. Overgrooming is when cats lick their fur excessively due to stress, boredom, skin issues, or nutrient deficiency.

Pica is a disorder that causes cats to eat non-food items due to genetic, medical, or nutritional factors. Attention-seeking is when cats eat their hair to get a reaction from their owners or to communicate that they need something.

Conclusion

For a variety of causes, including excessive grooming, pica, or attention-seeking, cats eat their own hair. Cats can occasionally consume hair without harm, but excessive hair consumption can lead to a number of health issues, including hairballs, intestinal blockages, and vitamin deficiencies.

Take your cat to the vet for a checkup and treatment if you discover that they are chewing their hair. Additionally, you can assist your cat by altering its nutrition, giving it medication, regulating its behavior, or giving it frequent grooming.

Reference:

  1. Neurology: Brain tumors in dogs and cats. (n.d.). Veterinary Hospital.
  2. Inflammatory bowel disease. (2023, June 21). Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

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