Is it safe for a person to groom her cat by licking her rather than using a hand, comb or a brush? Actually, is it sane? In this instance, we have a woman who grooms her cat with her tongue because (a) she is addicted to eating her cat’s fur and (b) she says it creates a nice bond between cat and person. Lisa, a 43 year old woman from Detroit, USA has been grooming her cat this way for 15 years. There appears to be no ill effects despite eating her way through a lot of fur over that time.
In one basic way, licking your cat replicates exactly how a mother cat cares from her young. This should please a cat. However, the preferred way for a human to do it is by brush, comb and hand. Lisa does groom her cat in this conventional way, as well and seems to be fairly sensible about the whole process…
What is Lisa eating?
Well we know she eats the fur. That would mean the down hairs and guard hairs if her cat is double coated. The fur contains dander which is dead skin and saliva. Lisa eats that too. A cat’s saliva can contain bacteria and also the Cat Allergen Fel D1. Fur can also include the odd flea, flea eggs and flea waste. Perhaps Lisa can detect these and avoid ingesting them?
If Lisa’s cat has fleas or even a single flea it may have the immature tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum in its intestines. They are ingested by the flea when eating tapeworm eggs. The cat bites or swallows the flea and becomes infested that way.
These are the things that come to my mind, immediately. I don’t think any of them are that big a deal except for the tapeworm! Of course that does depend on her cat having fleas (which are very commonplace).
I am painting the worst case scenario. Lisa seems healthy, as I said. I would have thought a vet and a doctor would advise against this strange behavior.
Slimming aspect of a cat hair diet
There may be a slimming element to this “diet”! Cat fur is probably treated as roughage by a dietitian. It would aid the passage of the stool through the intestine. It may help stave off hunger. It may be a nice cure for constipation. I’d like to ask Lisa about that. This could be a hidden reason why she eats cat fur.
What about her cat?
It can only be good for her cat, or is that too simplistic an assessment? I have found that placing a person’s head (a large object for a cat) near a cat’s head can be intimidating for a cat. It may unnerve her cat a little. Also a cat might not like a person’s saliva on her fur. I wouldn’t be surprised if her cat licked it off. Putting a human’s saliva on a cat’s fur may disturb the natural balance of her cat’s anatomy.
All said and done, I don’t see Lisa’s habit as causing a real problem for her or her cat but it isn’t a great idea. It is unnatural, bottom line.