Cat shedding is a part of life with felines – but sometimes, too much hair loss can be an indicator of other issues. Excessive shedding can be challenging and even concerning for cat parents to deal with. Let’s take a look at why cats shed, what it might mean if their shedding increases, and what to do about it.
What You Need to Know About Cat Shedding
Cat shedding is a natural process, so it’s not unusual for your cat to leave a little hair around the house (even if he or she is a hypoallergenic breed). Here’s what you need to know about cat shedding:
- All cats have different kinds of coats
- Cats shed for skin protection and temperature control
- Cats might shed more in spring and fall
Different Kinds of Cat Coats
All cats have different kinds of coats, and the type of coat will impact how much they shed. A cat coat can be long or short, and the layers also vary and provide different benefits. Some cats might have a dense underlayer for insulation, or a shiny top layer to help them repel water.
One important thing to know about all cats: they rarely shed their whiskers. Whiskers are much different from their regular coat, and they are made from a special kind of hair that actually allows cats to sense their environment. Never trim your cat’s whiskers. An occasional whisker here or there is not typically cause for concern, but if you notice they are suddenly shedding or missing whiskers, contact your veterinarian.
Why Do Cats Shed Their Fur?
Cat shedding is a normal process that cats use to expel dead hair. If their dead hair stays on their body, it can cause skin irritation from excess oil. Getting rid of a thick coat can also help cats maintain temperature control during the warmer seasons.
Even in a household where your cat is being groomed and brushed regularly, which is also an effective way to remove dead hair, they will still shed because their bodies evolved from a time when there was no benevolent master to help with their coat care.
Seasonal Shedding Changes Are Normal
In theory, most cats shed twice a year: once to get rid of their thick winter coat in the spring, and again in the fall to make room for their new winter coat. Because indoor cats live in temperature-controlled environments, this annual schedule might get confused, causing your cat to shed year round.
What Excessive Cat Shedding Might Mean
If you feel like your cat is shedding more than normal, there are a few reasons why this might be happening:
- A cat under stress might shed more
- Senior cats shed more than kittens or adult cats
- Cats who are nursing or pregnant might lose more hair
- Your cat’s diet influences their shedding patterns
Excess Shedding Can Mean Your Cat Is Stressed Out
Stress can manifest itself in a number of physical ways, including excess shedding. If your cat has experienced a recent stress trigger, such as moving to a new house or the arrival of a new pet or baby, they may shed more because they’re feeling nervous and tense. Stress can also cause behaviors that contribute to shedding, such as licking and chewing on the skin.
More Shedding Might Be a Result of Your Cat’s Age
Older cats tend to shed more than younger cats because they groom themselves less. The hair itself also changes as a cat gets older, possibly becoming less supple and smooth and more likely to clump and fall out. If you notice your cat shedding more as they approach seniorhood, you might be able to mitigate this increased hair loss by simply providing more brushing and cat grooming.
Cats Might Shed More During Pregnancy
Pregnant or nursing cats also experience higher rates of shedding than cats who aren't undergoing this experience. Hormones tend to increase the amount of cat shedding, especially on a mother cat’s stomach where she will be nursing.
Your Cat May Lose Hair If Their Diet Isn’t Complete
Abnormal rates of hair loss and shedding may occur if your cat isn't eating a well-balanced diet. Cats have distinctive nutritional needs and your cat’s food plays an important role in keeping their coat shiny and functional. If they are missing a crucial component of their daily nutrition, you might see that reflected in excessive shedding or a dull coat.
Health Issues Can Worsen Your Cat’s Shedding
In addition to these common environmental or circumstantial issues listed above, there are some more significant health issues that can increase the amount of shedding for your cat. These include:
- Infections and diseases
A Cat with Excessive Shedding May Be Experiencing Allergies
Your cat might be shedding additional hair because they are allergic to something in or around your home. This could be a home product, something in their food, or even a material on a piece of furniture.
Often, if allergies are the culprit, your cat will also display some signs of skin irritation like hot spots or a rash. If you notice increased shedding in your home, it might be worth examining your cat’s skin to see if they’re experiencing an allergic reaction.
Bugs Like Mites and Fleas Can Cause Coat Trouble
You can’t always see mites and fleas on your cat, and these pesky bugs can cause serious skin and coat issues for felines – including an increased amount of shedding. The shedding is often a result of your cat’s response to the bugs. They tend to scratch and bite their skin to address the itchiness caused by these parasites, which causes hair loss. Especially if you have a cat who spends time outside, you might want to consider this as a cause for excess shedding.
Excess Shedding Can Be a Symptom of Infections and Disease
Your cat might be losing hair because of an underlying health problem such as a bacterial or fungal infection, or a disease that is affecting various organs that impact coat health, such as the thyroid, liver, kidney, or adrenal glands. Excess shedding can also be an indicator for some cancers in cats. Don’t rush to any conclusions, but also don’t ignore a marked change in your cat’s shedding behavior, because it might be a sign that something more serious is going on. See your veterinarian to rule out any serious issues that might be causing excessive shedding.
How to Deal with Cat Shedding in Your Home
Once you’ve discovered the cause of your cat’s excess shedding, you’ll want to address it. Here are some other tips to help minimize the amount of cat hair in your home:
- Protect your cat from pesky bugs
- Perfect your cat’s environment
- Groom your cat well and consider professional groomers
Flea and Mite Protection Is Important Even for Indoor Cats
One of the best foundational ways to care for your cat’s coat and reduce shedding is by staying up-to-date on your cat’s parasite protection. You should use these treatments year-round and your veterinarian can recommend exactly what is best for your cat.
Even if your cat lives indoors all the time, it’s important to keep them properly protected from fleas and mites, which can enter your home in a variety of ways.
Create a Stress-Free, Allergy-Free Cat Space
Your cat’s environment is a crucial part of their overall health, and maintaining a clean and healthy space will support their coat condition. Ensure your cat’s environment is free from allergens. It might take some time to discover what materials trigger your cat to shed more, but once you find out what they are, you can avoid them.
Likewise, keep your cat’s stress triggers at a minimum whenever possible. A more relaxed cat will shed less, so try to avoid exposing them to things that might make them feel stressed, such as loud noises, large groups of people, or other strange animals.
Good Grooming Is the Front-Line Defense for Excess Shedding
Your cat has her own special grooming habits, but she’ll also need your support – especially if you’re noticing excessive shedding. This might mean more baths, additional brushing sessions, or even new tools, like a specialized brush, comb, or shampoo.
Grooming can be upsetting for your cat if they aren’t used to it, so it’s important to start this routine as soon as you can in your cat’s life. Don’t hesitate to contact a professional groomer or ask your veterinarian about professional cat grooming. Sometimes, it’s easier to outsource this care, especially if your cat has a particularly long or unruly coat.
Cat Shedding Can Be a Health Indicator for Your Pet
Cat coat health is a part of their overall health, so it’s important to keep note of your cat’s typical shedding habits. If you notice excessive cat shedding, first rule out health issues by taking your cat to the veterinarian. Then, consider an increased cat grooming schedule or a diet change to address your cat’s hair loss issues. Also remember that this might be a natural change for your cat who is aging or pregnant, and shedding is part of life with a cat – so you might just need a new vacuum!