Keep finding cat hair everywhere? Hair clumps under the sofa, loose hairs in the air, and a hairy layer on your clothes are all signs that shedding season is here.
Shedding is a frustrating phase for you but a normal one for your cat. In fact, normal shedding is a sign of health, indicating your cat is growing a new fur. But what if your cat is shedding too much? And how to differentiate between normal and excess shedding?
In this article, we will discuss cats that shed too much – the causes, the red flags, the damage control options.
Why Cats Shed
Cats shed because their hairs follow a specific life cycle, and that cycle involves hair renewal. If this sounds too science-y, let us explain.
Cats have three different types of hairs:
- Primary – long and coarse hairs
- Secondary – short and fluffy hairs
- Tactical – functional hairs like the whiskers.
Each of these hairs has a growth cycle that occurs in four different phases:
- Anagen – the new hair begins growing
- Catagen – continues to grow and reaches its full length
- Telogen – the hair rests (neither grows nor falls)
- Exogen – the hair falls
In simple words, shedding is an entirely normal process and necessary for changing the coat’s length and thickness in accordance with the environmental factors – fluffier in winter and lighter in summer.
How much Shedding is Normal
Some cats shed more, and others shed less. There is no one-rule-fits-all for determining whether your cat sheds typically or excessively. Plus, because of the cat’s obsession with self-grooming, shedding issues can be hard to spot.
Here are some things you need to consider when evaluating your cat’s shedding.
Your Cat’s Breed
Except for the Sphinx, all cats shed. However, some breeds shed less than others. The group of low-shedding cats includes breeds like the Burmese, Bengal, Bombay, Devon and Cornish Rex, Siamese, Ocicat, Turkish Van, and Angora.
On the other hand, the following breeds are real fur factories – the American Bobtail and Curl, Cymric, Chartreux, Maine Coon, Nebelung, Persian, Siberian, Himalayan, Ragdoll, and Ragamuffin.
Season and Lifestyle
The hair cycle is affected by two environmental factors – temperature and sunlight. Obviously, the impact of these factors depends on the cat’s lifestyle – indoor or outdoor cat.
Simply put, outdoor cats tend to shed more intensely bi-yearly when the day length and temperature changes are more pronounced. In comparison, indoor cats shed with the same intensity all year round because of the regulated conditions.
General Skin Health
In cats, healthy skin should be pinkish to pale white, soft, and smooth. Skin changes in terms of reddening, flakiness and dandruff, patchy hair loss, and the presence of bumps or other lesions are indicative of a skin condition.
Overall Hair Quality
A normally shedding cat will have a clean, soft, and uniform-looking coat. On the other hand, an excessively shedding cat with an underlying skin problem will have brittle, dry, and coarse-textured hair with broken or chewed ends.
Causes for Increased Cat Shedding
Increased shedding can be frustrating and warrant extra cleaning efforts, but luckily, in most cases, it is not dangerous. In fact, with veterinary attention, the increased shedding can be put under control.
There are five top reasons for increased shedding rate and intensity in cats. Let’s discuss each.
Cause Number 1: Allergies
Allergies are prevalent among modern cats and a common cause of excessive itching, hair loss, and secondary bacterial infections.
Cats can be allergic to many things, including – allergens found in the environment (pollen, dust, dander), certain foods (chicken, beef), or fleas.
More often than not, managing allergies requires a life-long administration of antihistamines or investing in desensitization shots.
Cause Number 2: Fleas
The common flea and her external parasite cousins like lice, mites, and ticks may lead to severe skin irritations, resulting in increased shedding and hair loss.
Fleas are a source of pain and frustration. Their presence results in extreme itchiness and often secondary infections. Plus, in cats allergic to flea saliva they cause a condition known as flea allergy dermatitis.
Getting rid of the fleas requires spot-on or oral anti-flea treatments combined with flea baths. To avoid infestations, keep your cat up to date on its monthly preventive.
Cause Number 3: Ringworm
Do not be confused by the name, ringworm is not an actual worm. Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes hairless ring-shaped skin lesions.
Despite its appearance, ringworm is painless. However, it is highly contagious not just among cats but also to dogs and humans.
As with any other fungal infection, the ringworm treatment is lengthy. The vet will prescribe topical ointments, creams, and shampoos. In more severe cases, oral antifungals are recommended too.
Cause Number 4: Metabolic Disease
Cats are prone to various metabolic diseases, leading to skin and coat changes and trigger shedding abnormalities.
The two most common metabolic conditions responsible for increased shedding are kidney disease and underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism.
Kidney disease and hypothyroidism are not curable and reversible but, when caught early, can be successfully managed.
Cause Number 5: Stress and Boredom
There is a condition called – psychogenic alopecia. It is hair loss due to psychological imbalances.
Namely, when cats are overly stressed or bored, they engage in excessive licking. The licking leads to skin irritations and patchy hair loss.
Managing this condition would require determining and eliminating the stress trigger or, in cases caused by boredom – environmental enrichment.
How to Lessen Your Cat’s Shedding
Pet owners often wonder how to stop their cats from shedding. This is entirely unrealistic – shedding is a normal process and cannot be stopped.
Therefore, instead of focusing on the impossible, we recommend reducing the shedding to a manageable level.
Here is what you can do to lessen the impact of your cat’s shedding.
Practice Daily Brushing
Regular brushing helps remove the loose hair, thus supporting the shedding process. Plus, it enhances circulation and promotes hair growth. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, “daily brushing will dramatically cut down on the amount of loose hair and cat dander.”
Use a Deshedding Tool
Based on breed, the de-shedding tool can be a powerful ally during your cat’s shedding season. The exact de-shedder type and frequency of use depend on your cat’s coat and needs. We should note that not all cat breeds are suitable for de-shedding.
Supplement with Omega Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are critical nutrients for fast and efficient shedding. Since most commercially available cat food formulas lack adequate fatty acid amounts, we recommend supplementing your cat with fish oil.
Tips for Maintaining Your Cat’s Coat
The approaches mentioned above are excellent fast-acting solutions. They are like the first-aid for shedding management.
In the long run, maintaining your cat’s coat healthy can help reduce the number of loose hairs during shedding season.
Here are some essential and efficient cat coat maintenance tips.
Tip Number 1: Brush your Cat Regularly
The golden standard for coat maintenance is regular brushing. Regular means different things for different cat breeds, so make sure these two factors are in sync. Regular bushing has three vital skin health benefits:
- Gets rid of loose and dead hair
- Increases the skin’s blood flow
- Spreads the natural skin oils.
To ensure maximum benefits, pay attention to the type of brush you are using. Different coat types need different brushes. Talk to a professional groomer if in a dilemma.
Tip Number 2: Bathe your Cat (but don’t overdo it)
Bathing will help prevent matting, tangling, and unpleasant odors. Cats usually take the bathing part in their own hands or, better said, tongues. However, it is still recommended to give your cat occasional baths.
When it comes to bathing, there are two critical considerations – frequency and coat care products. In terms of frequency, it is essential not to overdo it. As for coat care products, make sure you use a shampoo formulated specifically for cats.
Tip Number 3: Ensure High-Quality Nutrition
Poor diets are directly associated with low-coat quality. Keep in mind that a poor diet does not mean your cat is not eating enough. It can also mean that your cat is eating normally, but the food lacks vital nutrients.
Always provide your cat with high-quality, nutritionally rich, and balanced food. Ideally, you can buy foods that are formulated specifically for your cat’s breed.
Tip Number 4: Prevent parasitic infestations
As mentioned, external parasites like fleas, mites, ticks, and lice can deteriorate your cat’s coat quality quickly. Plus, their presence is often associated with an array of painful symptoms and can trigger secondary complications.
Luckily, you can prevent parasitic infestations in your cat by keeping her up-to-date on external parasite preventives. There are different types of preventive products, and most have residual efficacy for up to one month.
Tip Number 5: Keep the Water Bowl Full
Adequate water intake helps keep the skin moisturized and prevents excess drying, resulting in dry skin and excess hair loss.
To encourage your cat’s drinking, you should put water bowls in various places around the house and ensure they are always filled with fresh and clean water. You can even add a few tuna juice drops to entice your cat’s water appetite.
Our Final Thoughts
The hairy truth about cats is that they shed, and sometimes they shed a lot. Trying to stop your cat’s shedding is both irrational and impossible.
Instead, focus on maintaining her coat healthy throughout the year and lessening the shedding impact during shedding seasons.
All in all, dealing with cat hair is part of the unique and remarkable cat parenting experience. Just make sure you use the lint roller on your clothes before leaving the house.