There is no definite rate at which a cats hair grows. For long-haired cat breeds, hair growth to full length can take anywhere between four months to half a year. For short-haired cats, you can expect your pet to grow his hair back between a few weeks to three months.
To better understand the rate of regrowth of your cat’s fur, it is a good idea to have a basic idea of the feline hair growth cycle. This hair growth cycle is divided into three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen.
In the anagen phase, your cat’s fur grows the fastest. This phase is followed by the catagen phase where your cat’s fur stops growing. Finally, in the telogen phase, your cat’s fur falls out to make way for new hair growth.
Typically, cats shed twice a year, coinciding with the changing of the seasons. Generally, cats shed before winter to make way for thicker fur and another time during spring to prepare for the coming of summer.
However, due to exposure to artificial lights, most indoor cats shed fur almost all year round.
Causes of hair loss in cats
Another critical factor that influences the rate of hair regrowth in cats is the underlying cause of hair loss. Identifying the root cause and using the appropriate treatment can fast-track hair regrowth in cats. For example, if your cat’s fur was shaved before surgery or another medical treatment, there is no reason to believe that the fur will grow at a slower rate.
However, some conditions and disorders can undermine hair growth. Here are a few disorders and conditions that contribute to hair loss in cats.
1. Telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium is a condition that occurs when a feline is subjected to too much stress. When this happens, the anagen or growth phase stops and the hair growth cycle proceeds directly to the telogen or hair loss phase.
Once the source of stress is eliminated, the cat’s fur will resume growth but the growth can sometimes be uneven. Over time, the hair growth will even out.
Along with stress, ringworm is one of the leading causes of hair loss in felines. Ringworm is classified as a fungal infection which is caused by Microsporum, a type of fungal spore.
Ringworm is prevalent in kittens as well as cats living in the same home. The fungal infection can be passed from one cat to another or contracted from the environment.
The fungal spore enters the cat’s skin through openings like bites, scratches, and lesions. Soon after, the fungi begin to infect the skin and the hair follicles.
Typically, cats do a great job of grooming themselves, removing potential causes of infections like fungal spores. But if the break in your cat’s skin is located in a hard to reach area like the face, the risk of infection increases. Additionally, cats with weak immune systems are more likely to succumb to ringworms.
The symptoms of ringworm can vary for each cat. However, hair loss, circular and reddish patches, and flaky skin are the most common symptoms.
3. Excessive grooming
Cats spend an inordinate amount of time grooming themselves and other members of their colony.
Because of the structure of their tongues, cats are pretty good at removing dead hair, debris, and even parasites off their fur and skin. However, this same structure can also cause hair loss and bald patches, especially if a cat focuses his attention on a particular body part.
Apart from hair loss, excessive grooming can also lead to the development of hairballs. And when a cat cannot expel a hairball from his digestive system, he may need to go under the knife to remove it.
Usually, overgrooming is a sign that a cat is stressed. Some cats turn to grooming as an outlet for calming themselves when facing a stressful situation. Excessive grooming can also mean that a cat is bored and needs both physical and mental stimulation.
4. Poor diet
Hair loss can also come as a result of poor nutrition. Around 30 percent of a cat’s protein intake is allocated to his skin and fur. If the cat food lacks proteins and other vital nutrients or if the proteins are difficult to digest, you will notice that your cat’s fur becomes thinner and breaks off faster. Eventually, this can lead to hair loss.
On the other hand, vitamins A and E also contribute to coat health and hair loss prevention. Lack of these antioxidants in a cat’s diet can undermine the production of keratin which is a crucial building block of cat hair.
How to encourage faster hair growth in cats
The best way to encourage the growth of new hair on your cat is to identify and treat the underlying cause. Once your cat is well on his way to recovery from the particular condition or disorder he is suffering from, you can focus your attention on his nutrition.
As mentioned previously, a cat’s diet plays a vital role in the growth and development of his skin and coat. And the absence of nutrients can lead to poor fur quality and even hair loss.
To support the growth of new hair, it is vital to focus on your pet’s nutrition.
Make sure that your cat’s diet contains enough proteins that will help sustain hair growth. Often, when a cat’s hair grows slowly, the main culprit is the lack of quality protein in his diet.
Vitamins and minerals are also crucial in hastening the growth of new hair. Specifically, your cat’s diet should contain the right amount of zinc and vitamins A and E. Zinc deficiency can slow down hair growth while vitamins A and E give luster to the hair.
Finally, feed your cat with a diet rich in essential fatty acids, specifically Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Fostering coat health in cats
Once your pet grows his hair back, there are a few things that you can do to improve his coat health.
Start by eliminating any potential cause of stress. Cats can easily succumb to stress due to their nature. Although it can be difficult to completely eliminate all potential sources of stress, do your best to limit your cat’s anxiety. Doing so can limit his penchant for overgrooming.
If you do not brush your cat regularly, now is the best time to cultivate that habit. Although cats spend most of their time grooming themselves, they still need help from their humans, especially in reaching certain body parts.
Deworming is an effective way to protect your cat from pests like mites. Additionally, deworming can indirectly improve your cat’s coat health. When your cat is free from parasites, he is less likely to suffer unnecessary hair loss and skin damage.
No timeline for hair growth
Whatever may be the reason for your cat’s hair loss, there is no specific timeline for his hair regrowth. The best thing that you can do is to be patient and focus on your cat’s overall health.
Image: istockphoto.com / Yana Kallas