Shedding in Cats: 4 Things You’ll Want to Know

shutterstock_2422946399-min

Table of Contents

Cats shed hair. Sometimes they shed a lot of it. It’s an inconvenient feline fact of life. But in the great scheme of things, shedding is one of the more benign ‘hiccups’ in a purrfect relationship. Let’s face it, a few hairs on the cushions aren’t in the same league as the shredded sofa ‘scratching post’. Or the remains of last night’s hunting trophy left on the pillow (and only after it’s been eaten first). But apart from the inconvenience, what do we need to know about shedding cats? This article takes a look at why cats shed, which cats shed the most – and the least, and possible causes for excessive shedding. And finally asks what people can do to help reduce shedding in cats.

Why do cats shed?

Shedding hair is perfectly normal for cats. 

Hair goes through an active growing phase, followed by a resting phase until it falls out. It’s a way of maintaining coat health by getting rid of broken and damaged hair. And it’s an adaptation to weather extremes. 

In springtime, cats will shed their dense winter coats, ready for better weather (ever hopeful!). As days shorten and become colder in the autumn months, cats shed their light summer coat to grow their denser winter layers – time to don the thermals! 

Sunlight and temperature influence the cycle of hair loss. But other factors also influence how much cats shed and when.

Genetics 

It’s a bit of a myth that long-haired cats shed more than short-haired ones. Long-haired cats don’t necessarily shed any more. The hair is just a lot easier to see. The biggest factor determining how much cats shed and when is their breed. Some breeds have a double coat – a dense, soft underlayer for insulation and an outer coat of guard hairs for protection. The soft undercoat has a shorter growth cycle than the outer coat and is shed most in spring and summer. The longer top coat grows for longer and falls out throughout the year. Almost hairless cats, like Sphynx, have a definite advantage in the low-shedding stakes.

Lifestyle

Irrespective of breed, it’s quite likely that indoor cats will shed more steadily throughout the year. Indoor cats won’t experience the full impact of natural daylight and temperature changes the way their free-roaming cousins do. 

Hormones 

Hormones influence the growth cycles of hair in cats. This influence can be seen during the normal changes of pregnancy and lactation in female cats. Or resulting from a hormonal imbalance.

Nutrition

Hard working hair follicles need enough nutrition to grow a healthy coat. Poor and unbalanced diets impact the strength and quality of hair growth.

Illness

Chronic illnesses, hormonal imbalances, parasites and infections can all affect how much and how well hair grows. In some cases, the pattern of hair loss can suggest the cause.

Which breeds shed the most and least?

High-shedding cats include Maine Coone, Persian, Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Siberian, and Norwegian Forest Cat.

Low-shedding cats include Siamese, Burmese, Bengal, Savannah, Devon Rex, Turkish Van, and British shorthair.

Another myth surrounding shedding is that cats who shed more cause allergies in humans. All cats produce the allergens Fel d1 which triggers human allergies. It’s formed in salivary and sebaceous (sebum-producing) glands. Cat hair, coat length, and coat colour have no effect on its production. So unfortunately there is no such thing as a ‘hypoallergenic cat’ for human cat-allergy sufferers.

How much hair shedding in cats is excessive?

Cats shed and replace millions of hairs on a regular basis. 

Given that they spend on average around 10% of the day grooming, it’s hardly surprising. 

But sometimes shedding is excessive. The result can be a dull, patchy coat, all-over hair thinning or bald patches. The skin itself can become dry and scaly. And develop inflamed sore patches. Another ‘side effect’ of excess shedding will be larger and more frequent hairballs

10 reasons your cat may shed excessively

  • Parasites like fleas or lice may cause surface irritation and scratching. Some mange mites go even deeper into the skin. Demodex mites invade the hair follicles themselves, making the hair fall out.
  • Allergies: food allergy or atopy
  • Bacterial and fungal skin infections 
  • Chronic illnesses: kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes
  • Overgrooming: habit, anxiety or stress, pain
  • Burns: chemical irritants or sunburn
  • Cancer
  • Side-effects of certain medications, including steroid anti-inflammatories and some anti-parasite spot-on treatments.
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor diet

Joii Vets are online 24/7 if you are worried about your cat’s excessive shedding, over-grooming, inflamed skin or scratching!

How to reduce shedding in cats

Cats will shed. It’s a natural and normal process. But we can minimise the amount of hair shed around the house with regular grooming and essential skin care.  

Grooming 

  • Grooming is essential to keep your cat’s coat clean and healthy all year round.
  • The more dead hair you remove, the healthier their skin and the cleaner the sofa.
  • Bathing also removes loose hair and dander to improve skin and coat health. But it’s important to use a good-quality cat shampoo, suitable for your cat’s coat and any skin issues. And not to bathe too frequently.
  • Grooming has the added benefit of reducing the risk of hairballs!

Different breeds of cats have different requirements for grooming – the frequency of grooming and type of grooming tool or brush you choose depends on their type of coat. 

  • Short hair cats – a stiff brush, rubber curry comb or silicone grooming glove
  • Cats with mats and tangles – slicker brushes
  • Cats with a dense undercoat – an undercoat rake or shedding tool
  • Choose a deshedding tool that works for you and your cat. These tools remove loose outer guard hairs and gently remove the undercoat. Some claim to reduce shedding (or at least what finds its way onto the carpet) by up to 90%

Start a grooming routine as soon as possible when your cat comes home with you for the first time. Keep things relaxed and enjoy the bonding time. Few pets object to relaxing brushes.

Talk to our friendly Joii Veterinary Nurses about the best ways and tools to keep your cat’s coat in top condition.

A healthy balanced diet 

Choose a diet that meets your cat’s nutritional needs. Take account of their lifestyle, age, breed, sex and any health concerns. This is particularly important if you are feeding your cat a home-cooked diet.

Skin Supplements

  • Omega-3 and 6 from fish oils
  • Vitamins E and A and B-complex
  • Examples include YuMOVE Skin & Coat Care Moulting for cats or Viacutin Plus Pump – both available via the Joii app

And if all else fails, there’s always the trusty hoover, the Lint roller – and the best Christmas gift EVER – my overworked Robovac!

International Cat Day 2024

There are around 600 million cats in the world. International Cat Day is a day to celebrate all cats everywhere

Consult a vet - £28

Consult your vet online. Anyday, anytime.

Consult a Joii vet online for £28. Or free if you’re insured with one of our partners.

Developed by vets 🩺

QR code to app

How to get an
appointment

Join a practice

*It's free*

Download the app to register and become a member of Joii vets. In only a few taps you will have access to digital vet care 24/7 as well as a vet practice

Download the app

We’re writing as quick as we can

This article is currently being written by one of our expert vets. Check back soon.