Why Do Cats Eat Their Hair? (6 reasons!)

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You may find that cats sometimes eat some weird stuff. Anything from the normal mice and catnip to things like plastic bags, paper, rubber bands, and even their hair! But why do cats eat their hair?

One common reason why young cats eat their hair is due to a condition called Pica. It is mainly caused by nutritional deficiency and stress. Apart from Pica, there can be other causes as well.

This article will discuss in details the common reasons why cats pull out and eat their hair, and how to prevent them from doing it.


Why cats eat their hair (6 reasons)

Understand that it isn’t normal for your cat to be constantly eating its hair and that you need to take notice of it.

It may not be something that is a vet appointment worthy, but it is something you need to watch to see what you can do to prevent it from further happening.

It is always good to know the reasons because then you know what to look out for and when you need to contact your veterinarian. Here are 6 reasons why your cat may be eating their hair:

#1: Nutrient deficiency

Nutrient deficiency is one of the more common factors that your cat is eating its hair. This nutrient deficiency usually results in a disease called Pica, a disease most commonly caused by an iron deficiency. 

Pica causes weird cravings, which include trying to eat your hair. This has also happened in humans and can cause cravings for the following as well:

  • Feces
  • Dirt
  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Fabrics
  • Hair binders
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Plastic

You may find that this deficiency is common among pregnant and young cats, though that doesn’t mean adult cats will not have this.

Stray or malnourished cats may show signs of this, and you may want to talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to help them.

Iron isn’t the only nutrient a cat may be lacking that could cause this behavior; other nutrients that will cause this symptom are:

  • Fatty acids, especially Omega-3
  • Protein
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin A
cat eating own hair
cat eating own hair

If you think that is a deficiency in their diet, try to avoid commercialized cat food, especially dry cat food. Try finding more organic brands or even consider making homemade cat food.

#2: Psychological factors

Many psychological factors could be contributing to this behavior. Your cat could have a compulsive disorder that is quite frequent in certain breeds.

You will find that Siamese and other Asian breeds often have a compulsive disorder, which is often passed down through genetics.

A few other psychological reasons your cat may be pulling out their hair are anxiety, stress, and depression.

Your cat may be getting triggered by something in the environment. It could be something as simple as changing your schedule to getting a new pet.

#3: Sensory overload

Just like us, pets can have a sensory overload. There could be noises that bother them or a rug texture that they don’t like. It could be anything.

This causes their anxiety and stress, leading to hair pulling and eating.

When this occurs, your pet is trying to keep themselves grounded, or they don’t know how to cope with their surroundings.

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With this lack of ability to cope, the only thing they think will help, is to pull and eat their hair. Yes, it is detrimental to their health, but they aren’t aware of that.

#4: Parasitic infestation

Sometimes cats get parasites like fleas, ticks, or even worms that bite them. This should not cause your cat to pull out their hair and eat it.

But if the infestation is terrible, this could be the reason. Your cat is trying to remove the parasites from its body, and in doing so, they may consume its hair.

Parasitic infections occur when your pet isn’t appropriately treated with preventive medicine.

You may find that your pet has a parasitic infection when they first move into your home, or they often go outside around other stray animals.

#5: Old age

As your cat ages, its health and immune system decline. It may have dry skin, diseases, or just a nutrient deficiency.

This is because their body cannot do what they used to do. So to compensate, your pet will eat their hair. Try your best not to allow your cat to do this.

#6: Other medical problems

Many other minor medical problems may cause your cat to eat their hair. Some of those medical problems that are less likely the case are:

  • Alopecia
  • Dry skin
  • Fungal infection
  • Cancer
  • Thyroid problems
  • Allergies
  • Bug bite

You can always consult with your veterinarian if your cat gets into the habit of eating their hair. This isn’t normal, and the cause needs to be discovered to ensure that it isn’t an underlying disease.


How to stop my cat from eating fur (7 tips)

cat with cone

You can practice many solutions at home without needing medical intervention or discuss your options with a professional. Either way, it is a process.

What you do depends on the cause of the hair eating. You don’t want to do something that isn’t even going to fix the problem.

Tip 1: Change their diet

If your cat has a nutrient deficiency, you will want to change its diet. Stay away from commercialized foods, especially dry cat food. Wet cat food has better nutrients and isn’t as commercialized. 

You can first try using a different brand or buying cat food that is organic and healthy. Just remember, organic still may not provide what your cat needs.

Homemade cat food is an excellent alternative if you have the time to make it. Your veterinarian can also help you discover better brands.

Tip 2: Supplement with vitamins

There are ways you can supplement with vitamins. You will want to confer with the veterinarian before completing this treatment.

You don’t want to give them supplements that they don’t need. Your vet can do a blood draw and see if they are deficient in iron or suggest what vitamins will help improve your pet’s health.

Tip 3: Remove the trigger

If you know that a vacuum or a certain noise is the trigger of your cat’s hair eating, remove the trigger.

You may even have to put your cat into another room while you vacuum, but either way, you don’t want to traumatize your pet even more.

Tip 4: Provide a calming environment

Try to provide a calming environment if your cat has a sensory overload.

If you know you are housing many guests or want to turn the TV up for the big game, then maybe put your cat somewhere calm and provide some serene music. Showing more affection to your cat is also a great way to keep their stress level in check.

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If your lifestyle can’t provide this for your cat, you may want to consider someone who can provide that environment for them.

You don’t want your cat to be in a consistent state of high alert because it is detrimental to their mental health.

Tip 5: Treat the cause

The best course to take is to treat the cause of your pet’s hair eating. This may take several tries, but if you temporarily fix the hair eating, it will just continue to return until the cause has been treated.

Tip 6: Put a cone on them

Putting a cone on your cat is only a temporary fix. It provides some relief until you can find the source of the hair eating.

Once you find the cause, you can then treat it and remove the cone. The cone won’t last long with intelligent and determined cats.

Tip 7: Ask your veterinarian

Remember, a veterinarian’s job is to help with your pet’s health. If at any point you feel at a loss, let your veterinarian know. They can help you through the process and give you the necessary answers.


Can my cat’s stomach digest hair?

Cat hair is made with by-products of their body, so yes, they can digest their hair. However, this is only okay in small amounts.

If your cat is eating large amounts of hair, it can get stuck in the stomach, and you will find your cat vomiting up a hairball

Although this is all right to happen now and then, it is not good for them to cough up a hairball often. This can cause long-term problems; no one likes to puke every day from eating large amounts of hair.


Is it dangerous to eat hair?

It is not too bad for your cat to eat their hair in small amounts. They will simply digest it and put it in the litter box later.

However, if your cat continues to swallow large amounts, it can cause vomiting that could become harmful if it is consistent.

cat eating my hair
cat trying to eat my hair

What happens if a cat eats too much hair?

If your cat eats too much hair, its stomach cannot digest it. If they can’t digest it, their body somehow has to get rid of it. This is where you get hairballs because your cat will hack it up to get it out.

When to see a vet?

If you see your cat eat their hair a few times but not regularly, you don’t have to call the vet immediately.

However, if it seems your cat is regularly pulling out their hair and eating it, you should contact your vet and get an appointment. Call your vet anytime you feel you need to.

It is okay to ask for help when you aren’t sure; figuring out that you called for nothing is better than not calling and finding out that the cause was something dire.


Conclusion

Your pet is important to you. Although your cat may eat its hair now and then, it is a cause for concern if you see it happening often.

Something underlying is causing this behavior, which is a sign that your cat needs a medical professional.