Cats are mysterious creatures—and their tendency to shed is just as peculiar. Many folks believe that long-haired cats shed more than short-haired felines, but that’s not always the case. Shedding occurs for a multitude of reasons that all cat owners should be aware of.
It’s important to note that every cat’s shed cycle is unique. While it would make perfect sense for cats to lose more hair during warm weather months, shedding patterns can be completely random!
Below, we’ll cover how much shedding is normal and when there’s reason for concern. We’ll also discuss common causes for hair loss in cats and what you can do about it.
How Much Shedding is Normal—and When There’s Cause for Concern
Some cats shed much more than others. If you notice an increase in hair loss—or vomiting and/or hairballs—after your cat’s grooming sessions, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with your pet’s veterinarian.
Regardless of your cat’s fur type or shedding pattern, he should never experience rapid hair loss or a drastic changes in his coat. A thinning coat or bald patches could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Healthy cats typically maintain a soft, clean coat throughout the year.
If you do notice a change in your cat’s shedding cycle or coat, there’s no need to panic.
The following list of common reasons cats shed should help you determine why your feline is shedding more than usual.
Common Reasons Cats Shed—and What You Can Do to Help
From ageing to allergies and inflammation to pregnancy, your cat may be losing hair for one or more of the following reasons:
As cats grow older, they tend to groom less, often because they’re a little arthritic. This can result in dead hairs not being removed properly, leading to a dull, matted, scurfy coat, or increased hairs around the house.
What to do
Your cat will greatly appreciate assistance with grooming as he ages. Brushing him daily will keep his coat soft and free from burdensome mats. The signs of arthritis in cats are subtle, but 90% of cats over 12 are thought to suffer with it. Talk to your vet about medication to help your cat.
Just like humans, cats can develop food and environmental allergies. According to WebMD, a symptom of allergies in cats is itchy skin, which can lead to increased scratching and grooming behaviors.
If your cat is suffering from a food allergy or is allergic to something in the environment, he may groom himself excessively in an effort to relieve the itch. Too much licking can lead to hair loss and baldness.
Common cat allergies include:
- Flea saliva
- Grass, mold, pollen, and mildew
Rare cat allergies include
- Ingredients in food, usually beef
- Medications, including flea control products
- Cleaning products
- Health and beauty products, such as perfumes
- Cigarette smoke
What to do
It can be difficult, if not impossible, for pet owners to narrow down the source of their pet’s allergic reactions. Making an appointment with your cat’s veterinarian will simplify this process, but a veterinary dermatologist may be required. Skin and/or blood tests can help to determine specific allergies.
The vet may recommend changing up environmental factors, such as trying a new type of litter, vacuuming more frequently, and/or bathing your cat regularly. If a food allergy is detected, your pet’s veterinarian may recommend a special diet to see if this resolves the symptoms.
In some cases, supplements and/or medications may be prescribed. These include:
- Year-round flea prevention
- Fatty acid supplements
Avoid giving your pet any supplements or medications unless prescribed by his veterinarian.
In some cases, cats lose an excessive amount of fur when they experience anxiety, stress, or nervousness. This can result from environmental changes or a history of trauma, abuse, or neglect. Age (feline dementia) is also a common culprit when it comes to feline stress, according to Hillspet.com.
What to do
Look for other indicators that your pet may be frazzled. In addition to excess shedding, stressed and anxious cats tend to exhibit other signs of distress. Hiding and changes in litter box habits could indicate a psychological problem.
Extra love and attention may help calm anxiety, along with providing quiet, cozy places for your cat to escape to in times of distress. If there are other pets in the house, consider whether their resources can be spread around a little better to relieve any silent conflict that might be occurring. If symptoms persist, contact your pet’s veterinarian.
Peeing blood and being unable to urinate are severe consequences of stress in cats, so be on the alert and call your vet urgently if any of these occur.
If your cat is scratching fervently, fleas may be to blame. You may notice bald patches and/or skin irritation. Cats are also commonly allergic to flea saliva. This means that they don’t necessarily have to have an infestation to start scratching – a single bite can set them off, and makes prevention all the more important.
What to do
A visit to your cat’s veterinarian is your best bet when it comes to flea control and ongoing prevention. They’ll know what works in your area and what’s safe for your breed and age of cat. Medications like Capstar kill adult fleas quickly, but don’t treat the infestation in the house. Topical medications and flea collars work for a prolonged period.
To treat fleas effectively, you’ll need to treat all animals in the house, without a break, for at least 12 weeks.
Cats infected with ringworm often experience hair loss in patches. It’s caused by a fungus, which causes hair loss as it grows. You may notice a change in fur texture and/or red, sore, crusted patches. Cats are rarely bothered by their ringworm infection, but it can spread quickly to other animals in the house and even humans, so it needs treating.
What to do
Most veterinarians recommend an anti-fungal shampoo and anti-fungal medications for ringworm. Because fungal spores contaminate the environment, you may also need to decontaminate your home, according to Purina.
Lots of changes occur during pregnancy, including hormonal shifts. During this time, female cats tend to shed more than normal. Pregnant cats typically shed the fur on their tummies prior to birth so their kittens can nurse with ease.
What to do
Shedding usually decreases after a cat’s lactation period. If you’re concerned about mama cat’s shedding, don’t hesitate to consult your pet’s veterinarian.
How Diet, Nutrition, and Hydration Affect Shedding
There’s good news if your cat’s coat isn’t sleek and shiny. A simple change in your feline’s diet can make all the difference. Just like humans, cats need nutritious food with a healthy balance of protein and fats.
Lovetoknow.com explains that a healthy diet plays an important role in managing shedding. Cats should be fed a protein-rich diet. Look for high-quality food with 40% protein and a fat content of 25-35%. Supplements may also be used, but always check with your pet’s veterinarian before making diet changes.
For cats prone to shedding, a source of insoluble fiber should be included in the diet – check the ingredients list for cellulose or beet pulp, or call the manufacturer to find out whether some has been included.
Be sure your cat is staying properly hydrated, as dry skin and fur can lead to excessive shedding. In addition to water, you can offer your feline wet food to increase hydration. A humidifier can also help if your home is particularly dry.
Grooming Tips to Help Cut Down on Shedding
You can help decrease hair loss with a regular grooming routine. Follow these tips to keep your cat’s coat healthy and problem-free:
Brush your cat often
Consistent brushing will remove flaking skin and stimulate blood circulation, while also banishing any dirt and excess hair.
- Be sure to brush slowly in the direction of hair growth.
- Use a comb or brush specifically designed for grooming cats.
- Gradually increase grooming time to ensure all dead skin, excess hair, and dander is removed.
- You may need to brush your cat more often as he ages and begins grooming himself less often.
Examine your cat’s skin
While brushing your feline, check his skin closely for any bald patches, redness, cuts, fleas, etc. Any changes should be reported to your pet’s veterinarian.
Two Important Reasons Why Grooming is Important
Whether your cat is currently shedding or not, it’s best to keep up a grooming routine year-round. Regular grooming leads to the following benefits:
Grooming Keeps Your Cat Comfortable
Most cats enjoy being brushed, as it makes their skin feel fresh and flake-free. Grooming also stimulates new hair growth and helps remove pesky, painful mats.
Grooming Helps Cat Owners Discover Problems and Abnormalities
When you groom your cat regularly, you will notice any changes in his skin or hair texture. You’ll discover any problem areas quickly so you can address them before they worsen.
A Final Note on Your Shedding Cat
As you can see, there are a host of reasons cats shed. In most cases, shedding is perfectly normal, but always trust your pet parent instincts. Don’t hesitate to contact your cat’s veterinarian if you suspect something isn’t quite right.
In the meantime, happy grooming!