The fur on your clothes, couch, and practically your whole house – that becomes your reality when you decide to get a pet cat. But when is too much, well, too much?
No matter what your cat’s breed is, it will shed fur. The amount will vary from one breed to another, but one thing is for certain: all cats shed their fur.
Shedding is a normal process that almost all cats undergo. Furthermore, cat owners should welcome shedding as a sign of their pet’s good health.
Why do cats shed?
Cats shed because it is a part of them preparing for the change of seasons. Shedding also removes dead hair. If dead hair is not removed, the cat’s skin can become irritated.
In the wild, a cat will shed its fur twice a year. In spring, a cat will shed its winter fur. At the onset of fall, it will shed again in preparation for the growth of its undercoat.
The modern house cat, on the other hand, sheds fur on a daily basis. This can be largely attributed to his exposure to artificial lights. Exposure to sunlight influences shedding. That is why cats in the wild shed twice a year while your pet cat sheds daily. If your pet spends its time indoors, it is highly likely that it will shed fur daily. However, if he spends a chunk of his day exposed to the sunlight, his shedding will be affected by his overall photoperiod.
How much do cats shed?
There is no specific volume of hair loss that can be considered an average for cats.
As mentioned above, cats undergo large-scale shedding about twice a year, coinciding with spring and fall. However, some cats do not shed heavily during these periods. Your average indoor cat will shed on a regular basis, losing and regrowing millions of hair strands throughout the year.
And of course, there are breeds that shed more heavily than others. For example, Ragdolls will shed more fur compared to a Sphynx.
Why is my cat shedding so much?
A cat may shed more than usual because of poor diet, pregnancy, old age, stress and health issues.
Each cat has its own unique shedding pattern. Once you gain familiarity with your feline pal’s shedding pattern, it becomes easier for you to notice excessive shedding, apart from that caused by the changing of the seasons. Lets look at the most probable reasons for excessive shedding in more detail:
1. Poor diet
Just like humans, your cat’s diet influences his health, including the condition of his coat. Simply put, you cannot expect your pet to have a healthy coat if you do not provide it with nutritious food.
Unhealthy fare and nutritional deficiencies can make your cat’s body work harder. Furthermore, some types of food are difficult for felines to digest. And one of the first signs of nutritional imbalances is shedding.
Pregnancy in cats heralds the onset of hormonal changes. One of the effects of hormonal changes is a significant increase in the volume of fur shed. Specifically, you will notice that mama cat is shedding more fur from her belly. The main reason behind this is that your pet is readying herself for nursing her kittens.
Typically, pregnancy-related shedding resolves itself after the cat ends her lactation period.
3. Old age
Younger cats have a tendency to spend plenty of time grooming themselves during their waking hours. This changes as a cat becomes older. Senior cats spend less time grooming themselves. This, in turn, translates to the development of matted fur and excessive shedding.
As your cat grows older and spends less time grooming himself, you should lend a helping hand by brushing and combing his fur more often.
4. Anxiety or stress
Cats are notorious for being creatures of habit. And even the smallest, seemingly unnoticeable changes in their environment can cause stress.
If you have an otherwise healthy feline, and you notice an increase in the amount of shedding, think long and hard about the possible changes that you may have made in your home.
It can be as simple as rearranging furniture in a room or something bigger, like adding a new pet to your household. Watch for indicative signs like hiding and trembling.
You should also provide your pet a safe haven where he can run off to in order to attain a sense of calm and security and regain his usual demeanor.
5. Health problems
Health problems can manifest themselves in the form of excessive shedding.
For instance, skin irritation, allergies, or a parasite infestation, can lead a cat to scratch more frequently. In turn, this can increase the amount of fur your pet sheds.
Like humans, cats can also be prone to the changing of the seasons. Felines can become allergic to pollens and ragweed, and yes, even food.
Ringworm infection affects cats of all ages, not just kittens. The infection usually manifests itself in the reddening of the face, paws, and ears. However, the primary target of the infection is the skin. An affected cat usually develops crusts on the skin and fur, while triggering excessive shedding.
Another health-related cause of excessive shedding is thyroid disease. When your cat’s thyroid gland is either over or underactive, he will exhibit a few symptoms, including shedding and weight loss.
If you have an otherwise healthy cat and you want to gain more control over his shedding, there are a few things that you can do.
If you have adopted a cat recently, get into the habit of brushing, and combing his fur. Brushing and combing promote the growth of healthy skin and fur and can help minimize the overall volume of fur that he sheds.
Regular brushing and combing also offer a few benefits. Combing and brushing reduce hairballs and prevents matting of the coat. This grooming essential is also a good time to reinforce your bond with your pet and gives you an opportunity to examine his body.
Start with short sessions until your furry little pal gets used to the idea of being combed and brushed. You can keep him still by offering his favorite treats.
The proper way to comb a cat is to follow the direction of hair growth. This prevents knots or tangles, especially in longhaired breeds. Begin each session with a comb with wide teeth and then finish up with a fine-tooth comb.
If the shedding becomes a big issue you may have to consider shaving the cat to stop excessive shedding.
Apart from grooming, it is essential to provide your pet with a balanced diet. You may also want to consult your vet about supplements for your pet’s skin and fur, like vitamins and topical sprays.
A healthy cat should have fur that is shiny, clean, and free from mats and debris. If you notice something out of the ordinary, do not hesitate to consult your vet for guidance.
Remember, shedding is normal. Excessive shedding is not.
The importance of your cat’s fur
Unlike humans, cats grow up to six hair strands from a single follicle. Furthermore, most cat breeds grow three types of hair all at the same time.
The outermost layer of hair is called the guard hair. This type of hair protects your pet cat from the elements. This is also the layer of fur that cats raised when they are alarmed or feel threatened.
The innermost layer of fur is called the down hair, ground hair, or undercoat. Compared to the guard hair, the undercoat is shorter and wavy. It helps regulate a cat’s temperature.
Like the undercoat, awn hair aids in regulating body temperature. This layer of cat hair is also similar to guard hair because it provides protection against the elements.
Cat fur serves a few important functions for your feline friend.
Fur helps a cat get a clearer sense of its surroundings. If you observe your pet cat at home, you will notice that it constantly rub its body against objects while walking. This is because his awn hair functions like his whiskers – giving him spatial awareness.
Fur plays a critical role in regulating body temperature. During the warmer seasons,’ your pet’s fur keeps it cool by enabling air to ventilate the body. When the cooler months arrive, fur minimizes the amount of heat that is released from your pet’s body.
Finally, cats often use their fur to ward off potential threats by helping them appear larger when they raise their back hair.
Suffice to say, fur is vital for the health and wellbeing of cats.
Image: istockphoto.com / Викентий Елизаров