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Cat shedding 101

Shedding is a natural process for all animals that helps them keep their coats in a good state. Yet, sometimes it occurs because of a disease or certain health conditions. Let’s take a look at the nature of this process for cats. We’ll explain which kind of shedding is healthy and which isn’t, how you can manage it, and a lot more.

Why do cats shed?  

Cat shedding is a normal process, just as with any other animals and even humans. Groomers say that those cats who have access to the outside shed two times a year. With cats living inside, the process is more or less stretched throughout the whole year.

The main reason for shedding is removing dead hair from the coat. As dead fur can irritate the skin, it needs to be removed. In case the owner doesn’t comb and groom the cat, it will remove the fur by shedding.

Shedding cats are healthy cats as sick cats do not usually shed. It mostly depends on how much time your cat spends indoors and outdoors. The amount of daylight the coat is exposed to is called the photoperiod, and this triggers the process of shedding.

How much a cat sheds also depends on its breed as some breeds generally shed considerably less than others. The stable temperature inside a house and the artificial light makes indoor cats shed in smaller amounts during the whole year.

Cat shedding season 

Cats spending a lot of time outside shed twice a year: during fall to prepare for growing a winter undercoat and in spring to lose it. In winter, outdoor cats hardly ever shed as they need the fur as protection from the cold. In spring, shedding starts as the days lengthen and the weather gets warmer. 

Indoor cats shed all year round because of the controlled temperatures of the home environment. We artificially cool the air in summers and heat it in winters, so cat’s bodies get confused and shed constantly.

Seasonal shedding vs unhealthy one 

The natural healthy shedding we described above happens either in particular seasons (for outdoor cats) or all year round but in small doses (for indoor cats). But if a cat suddenly starts losing a lot of its fur, it is likely to be a sign of a disease or a health problem.

Four main reasons for unhealthy shedding:

Cat allergies

Just like people, cats sometimes have seasonal or food allergies. These lead to rashes, itchiness, and other skin issues. Skin problems, in their turn, cause shedding. If you notice bald spots on the cat’s body, or if it keeps scratching and sneezing, it may be caused by an allergy.

Ringworms

Ringworm, or fungal infection, affects cats of all ages. It is easy for a cat to get infected from contacting an infected animal or even sometimes from your shoes and doormat. Ringworm results in broken cat hair falling out fast, and crusts on the skin. Red bald spots with crusts are a sign that your cat needs a good vet.

Thyroid disease

The thyroid gland produces hormones that affect all organs in a cat’s body. That’s why hair loss, together with weight loss and elevated heart rate, can be a symptom of thyroid-related issues, such as its over- or under-activity. They are more likely to occur in cats over 10 years old but are sometimes diagnosed in younger felines.

Anxiety

Have you ever noticed that your cat starts losing hair the moment you take it to the vet or a new place? Such a reaction is typical for a stressed cat that is experiencing anxiety. Still, if it happens regularly, watch for other possible symptoms, for example, diarrhea or behavioral changes. If it happens only in stressful situations, think of preparing your cat for them beforehand. If it becomes a norm, consult a vet as it might be a sign of something serious.


How to control cat shedding: 

There’s a variety of methods to help you as a cat owner to control the process of shedding. Some of them help with unhealthy cases of shedding, others just fix the result of seasonal processes. Here are some tips for your fight against cat hair loss.

1. Groom your cat regularly 

Grooming is a thing you need to do regularly from the early age of your cat. It is much easier to accustom your feline to the procedure when it’s still a kitten. Grooming removes the dead hair and allows you to check for possible skin problems or lumps regularly. It gives the coat a shiny and healthy look and, if done regularly, creates a positive connection between you and your pet.

Depending on the type of fur, the regularity of grooming will vary. With short-haired cats, do it once a week using a metal comb or a rubber cat shedding brush. With medium-hair breeds and long-haired breeds, it’s better to repeat the procedure every few days to prevent tangles. To untangle knots you can use talcum powder or a mat-splitter.

2. Feed enough protein 

As carnivores, cats need enough protein in their diet. It influences both the overall condition of a cat and the coat condition. Cat hair is made of protein, so without it, the coat is the first thing to suffer. Jennifer Coates, DVM, states that a high-protein diet can reduce cat shedding (if it’s not because of health problems, of course). 

So, choose cat food that has at least 45% protein on a dry matter basis. Also, pay attention to the ingredient list: one of the first two items should be animal-based protein sources.

Further reading: How many grams of protein does my cat require a day?

3. Feed enough fatty acids 

Another crucial food component is fat. Fatty acids influence the coat condition a lot. Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids as well as cold-water fish oils are necessary components of a healthy diet. Jennifer Coates mentions that the total fat amount should stay in the 25-35% range, but if your cat has weight problems, keep it on the low end.

Other veterinarians, like Dr. Lauren Brickman, state that “there’s no real magic to control shedding” even if you add fatty acid supplements to your feline’s diet.

4. Pay attention to your cat’s hydration 

Water is the most crucial component of any diet, and the lack of liquids leads to various health problems. The right amount of water for a cat depends on what kind of food it consumes. Dry food for cats contains only about 10% of moisture while quality canned cat food moisture level is around 80%, so cats who eat canned food drink less.

5. Clean the air using specialized purifiers 

Sometimes excessive shedding is a result of an allergy. Some cats are allergic to dust or other substances in the air. In this case, a good cat air purifier can help clean it and positively influence your pet’s health. Another bonus, air purifiers help people fight their pet-related allergies as they help eliminate pet hair and dander floating in the air.

6. Regularly vacuum your home 

Eliminating cat hair from floors and furniture helps reduce the overall amount of loose cat hair at your home. As indoor cats shed all year round, you’ll always find cat fur on the floor, sofas, and chairs. So, a good vacuum cleaner for feline fur is a must for a household with cats.

7. Give your cat a place to stay at 

Another way to prevent the cat hair from spreading all over the house is to give your cats their own place to spend time in. It can be a bed, a cat house, or even a cat tree. The more time a cat spends in one place, the more fur is collected there, so if your cat has its own spot, the process of cleaning will become much easier.


FAQ’s

Do cats shed more in summer?

As we mentioned before, outdoor cats shed extensively during the spring, so in summer the process is almost over. Still, if it’s too hot, it may continue. Thus, it’s advisable to help your cat lose its winter coat during spring by giving it a good bath and regular combing.

Tip: if you are frequently bathing and grooming your cat, I suggest you read about the best tubs for cat grooming.

Indoor cats are likely to shed more in summer as the amount of sunlight is high. If your pet is a long-haired one, you may consider giving a useful haircut to your cat. It will ease its survival through the hot weather, but there are two major drawbacks. First, it will still shed, just with shorter hairs. Second, a haircut is a stressful experience for many cats that can negatively affect their health.

Do long-haired cats shed more?

It’s a common mistake to think that long-haired cats shed more than their short-haired counterparts. In reality, the amount of shedding is the same, but long hairs are more recognizable and they obviously take up more space, so it creates an illusion that longhairs shed more extensively.

Do cats have winter coats?

A cat winter coat is an undercoat that cats grow during the fall to prepare themselves for the cold. Most breeds have three types of cat hair: guard hair, awn hair, and down hair. The down hair, or the undercoat, serves the purpose of keeping the cats warm and it makes the cat look fluffy. It is mostly the undercoat that you remove while grooming and that is more prone to shedding.

In a word

Shedding is a natural process and an important part of a cat’s functioning, and there’s no answer to the question of how to stop my cat from shedding completely. Still, you can help your cat to shed less and ease the process of collecting the lost hairs from all around the place. 

Provide your cat with a healthy diet and help it get used to regular grooming. Always pay attention to unusual behavior and sudden excessive hair loss as it can be a symptom of stress or disease. Have a good vacuum cleaner suitable for pet hair to make cleaning the house fast and efficient. And always remember that balanced shedding shows that your cat is healthy!

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