What's the best treatment for excessive shedding in cats?
As a cat owner, you might have noticed they sometimes leave a trail of fur wherever they go, especially if you’ve got carpets. This is called shedding, and it’s completely normal. Shedding fur is a natural and necessary process for cats. Cat hair is constantly growing, and shedding is how they get rid of old or damaged fur. Just like humans lose hair daily, cats do the same with their fur. It's sometimes called moulting.
In this article, we'll explore the reasons behind why your cat might shed their fur and treatment for excessive shedding in cats.
Quick tips for managing cat shedding:
- Brush your cat regularly
- Keep them hydrated
- Ensure a balanced diet
- Schedule regular vet check-ups
- Create a stress-free environment
Cats usually experience one to two significant shedding and hair growth cycles every year. This helps them adjust their temperature and coat to match the season.
Your cat will probably start shedding their thick winter coat when spring arrives. This shedding helps them adapt to the rising temperatures, allowing them to stay cooler in the warmer weather. If they couldn’t shed, they’d soon overheat, which could lead to serious health issues.
When do cats shed their summer coat? While it may seem counter-productive, your cat may shed again in the autumn. This time, it's to prepare for the colder months. They'll get rid of their old fur to make room for a thicker growth. This thicker, warmer coat keeps them snug during winter.
What other factors affect cat shedding?
While seasonal changes are a common reason for shedding, other factors can also be at play. One of these will be whether your cat is indoors or outdoors.
Indoor cats have a shedding pattern that's generally more consistent than cats who spend much of their time outside. There are a few reasons for this.
Since they live inside a warm home, indoor cats are shielded from extreme temperature shifts and changing weather patterns. This means they experience less stress on their fur from the elements, which means they can shed evenly throughout the year.
Indoors, the thermostat keeps things relatively constant. Your cat doesn't need to adapt to hot summers or chilly winters. This means their fur doesn’t have to go through such drastic changes to help them regulate their body temperature.
Outdoor cats love to explore, hunt and stroll around their neighbourhoods. This means they’re outside in all weathers, and their shedding can be influenced by the changing seasons.
Outdoor cats are exposed to the elements, so they must adjust their coat thickness to stay comfortable. When summer arrives, they'll shed to get rid of their thick winter coat, and vice versa.
Shedding more when the seasons change helps outdoor cats regulate their body temperature. A lighter coat in summer keeps them cool, while a thicker one in winter keeps them warm.
So, if you have an indoor cat, you'll notice a more constant level of shedding throughout the year. But if your cat is an outdoor explorer, their shedding might increase with the changing seasons, which is entirely natural.
How to groom a cat?
During seasonal shedding, increase your grooming efforts to help your cat manage their shedding.
Our cats can't tell us when something's wrong with their health, and are very good at hiding illness or pain. So, as their owners, it’s up to us to spot the signs of discomfort or illness. Luckily, their shedding patterns help us out. If you notice your cat shedding fur in clumps or just more fur than usual, it might signal something isn't quite right.
Just like people, cats can have allergies. Four main allergens can cause reactions in your cat. Those are:
- Food allergies
- Flea or insect bite allergies
- Environmental allergies (atopy)
- Contact allergies
Allergies are generally linked with poor skin and coat health, and any one of these can lead to increased shedding or your cat shedding fur in clumps. You may also notice your cat licking and grooming themselves more, or sore, red patches on the skin. If you suspect your cat has allergies, your vet can help identify the allergen and recommend treatments.
Fleas and ticks can make your cat itch and scratch, causing excessive shedding. Itchy cats often groom themselves more, leading to increased hair loss and sometimes even sore skin from self-trauma. Regular flea prevention is essential to keep parasites at bay. Pet Health Club members receive year-round parasite prevention as part of their plan benefits.
Hormones can affect your cat's overall health, including their coat condition. Hormonal imbalances, such as an overactive thyroid gland or issues with the adrenal glands, can lead to increased shedding, or a coat that’s in generally thin or poor condition. Diabetes is another common cat health problem which can affect the quality of their coat. Your vet can run tests to diagnose these problems.
If you're concerned that your cat's shedding is due to a health issue, don't wait — schedule a visit to the vet. A thorough check-up can help identify any underlying problems and get your cat the necessary treatment.
Your vet can also recommend specific tests or treatments based on your cat's needs. Remember, a healthy coat is often a sign of a healthy cat, so promptly addressing any shedding concerns is essential.
Read more: How to groom your cat
Believe it or not, what goes into your cat's food bowl can affect how much they shed.
Just like humans need a balanced diet for good health, your cat needs the right nutrients to maintain a healthy coat. Make sure your cat food provides all the essential nutrients your cat needs. Look for labels that say "complete and balanced" and choose a diet that’s suitable for your cat’s age and lifestyle.
What is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet is where your cat’s food has everything they need nutritionally, which will help them to grow a strong, healthy, shiny coat.
Cats are obligate carnivores, and need a high proportion of protein in their diet. Protein is so important for your cat's coat. It helps in the growth and repair of fur. High-quality cat food should have a good amount of protein, often from sources like chicken, fish, or turkey.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a secret weapon for a glossy, shiny coat. They help keep your cat's skin healthy and moisturised, promoting a lustrous coat. Look for cat foods that contain fish oils or flaxseed for that extra dose of omega-3s.
Keep your cat hydrated
Cats can be a bit picky about drinking water, so make sure they're well-hydrated. Dry, flaky skin can lead to excessive shedding, so ensure your cat always has access to fresh water.
Don’t overfeed your cat
While a well-balanced diet is vital, it's equally important not to overfeed your cat. Obesity can lead to skin and coat problems, which may result in more shedding.
Every cat is unique, and their dietary needs can vary. If you need help with the right cat food for your pet or have concerns about their shedding, consult your vet. They can provide tailored advice based on your cat's specific needs.
How do cat grooming habits impact shedding?
Cats take personal hygiene very seriously and love to groom themselves.
Licking and shedding
Cats clean themselves by licking their fur. However, all that licking can lead to more shedding as loose fur comes off during the process.
A downside to all this licking is hairballs. When your cat grooms themself, they use their tongue to clean their fur. Their tongue has tiny, hook-like structures that catch loose hairs. Most of these hairs pass through the digestive system and end up in their litter tray. But some hairs stay in the stomach and form a hairball.
If your cat brings up a hairball, it might sound like they're in pain, but that’s not the case. It’s a natural response to the build-up of hair in their stomach, and the biggest downside is you have to clear it up. If your cat is struggling with hairballs or they seem to bring them up often (more than once or twice a week), speak to your vet. There are supplements and diets that can help.
Natural and necessary grooming
Grooming is entirely natural and necessary for cats. It helps remove dirt, debris, and loose fur from their coat. Plus, it spreads essential oils produced by their skin, keeping their fur healthy and shiny.
Sometimes, cats might overdo it with the grooming, especially if stressed or anxious, or with certain medical conditions. Excessive grooming can lead to more shedding and might indicate that your cat needs extra attention or a more relaxed environment. Ensure they have plenty of hiding spaces and high spots to rest.
Read more: 9 poisonous plants for cats
Treatment for excessive shedding in cats
Now you understand why your cat sheds, let's explore how you can manage this natural process.
One of the best ways to manage shedding is through regular brushing. Here's why it's so important:
Remove loose fur
Brushing helps remove loose and dead fur, preventing it from ending up on your furniture or clothes. Your cat will thank you for this.
Brushing also helps distribute natural oils in your cat's fur, which keeps their coat healthy and shiny.
Check for injuries and parasites
Grooming your cat will also allow you to check them over for any physical injuries or any other problems, which is especially important for owners of outdoor cats. You can use the grooming time to check for cuts, scrapes, open wounds, sores, evidence of fleas, ticks or mites, or missing hair. Speak to your vet if your cat has any injuries, bites or anything unusual on the skin or coat.
Now, here's where you can step in to help manage shedding and strengthen your bond with your pet:
Invest in a good cat brush and establish a regular brushing routine. Brushing your cat removes loose fur before it scatters around your home or ends up in their stomach. Not only does it reduce shedding, but it also helps prevent hairballs and matting. It’s particularly important to groom long-haired cats regularly, as they may need some help with coat maintenance.
Brushing your cat isn't just about fur control — it's also quality bonding time. Your cat will enjoy the attention and the soothing sensation of being groomed. So, by actively participating in your cat's grooming routine, you can keep their fur in check, enhance their well-being, and create special moments with your pet.
What is the best cat grooming brush?
There are loads of cat grooming brushes available, and many people will swear that one brush is better than others, but it will generally come down to what your cat prefers.
Pin brushes look like high-end hair brushes. These brushes are great for moving the oils around and keeping your cat's coat looking slick and clean but they won’t remove as much fur off your cat as others.
These brushes are great for removing dead or old fur from your cat's coat. They have thin wire bristles which can get deeper into your cat's coat, making them a good option for long-haired cats. But be careful, you can easily prick yourself on the wire bristle.
Bristle brushes are great for new cat owners or people with elderly or frail cats, as they have super soft bristles. They are also great for cats with sensitive skin as they won’t brush your cat’s skin, just the top layer of fur.
These are just three of many types of brushes, and the one you choose will most likely be a trial and error. All cats are unique, but you’ll soon be told if they don’t enjoy your chosen brush. Cats are also fickle, so have a range of brushes or combs available. What works one day might not work the next. Always brush gently, and try to keep the experience positive by using treats and praise.
Health and shedding
Sometimes, excessive shedding can be a sign of an underlying health issue. If you notice your cat shedding more than usual, and it's unrelated to the changing seasons, consider a trip to the vet.
Regular vet check-ups can help catch health problems early on. Your vet can also recommend solutions for shedding issues. If your cat’s getting older, why not consider a wellness screening at your vet? Pet Health Club members receive great discounts, and it could help spot any issues early, making them easier to treat.
Cats can shed more when they're stressed. Creating a calm and comfortable environment for your pet is essential. You can do this by giving them lots of places to relax. They especially like areas with natural sunlight and places where they are high up, and not just because they like to look down on people. High places give cats a sense of security, away from predators.
Play and interaction
Engage in playtime and cuddles with your cat to reduce stress and make them feel loved. Toys and games can keep them engaged, and puzzle feeders can help them feel like they’re hunting their food.
How much hair does a cat shed in a day?
Cats naturally shed hair every day, but the amount can vary a lot from one cat to another. As we've noted, they typically go through one to two major shedding and hair growth cycles each year. A cat's health, grooming habits, and the environment can affect how much they shed. Long-haired cats will generally shed more than short-haired.
If a cat's coat gets thin or if there are bald patches, it's not normal and could be excessive shedding. Also, more hairballs or vomiting can indicate too much hair loss, as cats swallow hair while grooming.
In short, it's normal for cats to shed daily, but the exact amount differs among individual cats. By watching for changes in your cat's coat, grooming habits, and any unusual health signs, you can figure out if their shedding is normal or if there's a concern
What to do with your cat’s fur?
You don’t have to throw their fur away. Birds love it as it’s warm and soft and offers superb insulation for their nests. Remove it from your brush, pick it off the carpet, and pop it on the washing line, or rest it on your garden plants.
Need advice on shedding and grooming?
For expert advice on shedding and grooming your cat, get in touch with your local vet.