- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
It’s almost summertime in the northern hemisphere, and my three cats have been shedding up a storm. I’m sweeping up tumbleweeds of fur every day. But is warm weather the only explanation for why my cats are shedding so much right now?
It turns out, summer weather isn’t the only reason cats lose hair. Read on to find out why cats shed, how much shedding is normal, and how to tell if your cat’s shedding is unusual.
Let’s start with the basics: cats shed. It’s a normal, natural part of their bodily functions. In an article for VCA Animal Hospitals, veterinarians Tammy Hunter, DVM and Cheryl Yuill, DVM explain that indoor cats shed in low levels throughout the year, while outdoor cats may undergo heavy shedding cycles in late spring and late fall.
While all cats shed, some breeds shed more than others. As explained by PetMD, Persians, Russian Blues, and Maine Coons are known for shedding extra. And American shorthaired cats are among the biggest shedders of all.
Some amount of shedding is normal for most cats. But excessive hair loss can be a sign of health problems. So, how do you know if shedding is abnormal?
You know your cat best. After living in close proximity to them, you likely have a sense of how much hair is normal, and you’re attuned to seasonal changes in shedding. So, the first sign that your cat may be shedding too much is when you notice more hair than usual.
Most of the time, excess shedding in cats isn’t serious. There are five major causes of hair loss in cats, all treatable with veterinary attention:
Skin, food, or environmental allergies may cause cats to itch and scratch a lot, leading to hair loss. According to Kathryn Primm, DVM, writing for IHeartCats, when a cat scratches and grooms a lot, they can lose hair and even develop a secondary skin infection. Although allergies aren’t 100% curable, they can be managed with medication and diet.
WebMD cites fleas, mites, lice, and ticks as parasites that may lead to bald spots and sores. If you’ve had fleas, you know: they’re a huge pain, causing crusty red bumps, intense itching, and hair loss. If you suspect your cat has fleas, talk to your vet about safe and effective treatment. Here are tips to get rid of fleas in the house.
Ringworm is not an actual worm, but a fungal infection that causes a scaly ring of missing hair. It’s painless but very contagious between cats, dogs, and humans alike. Your veterinarian can prescribe special shampoos and creams to treat ringworm.
4. Metabolic disease
As explained by Dr. Primm at IHeartCats, metabolic disorders such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism can cause hair loss in cats. These disorders are not curable, but when caught early, can be treatable for some time.
5. Stress or boredom
Veterinarians call hair loss resulting from stress “psychogenic alopecia.” When cats are extra-stressed, they may obsessively groom themselves, leading to bald patches and/or skin irritation. Treatment for psychogenic alopecia focuses on stress reduction and enrichment.
Thankfully, most causes of excess shedding in cats are easily treatable. And of course, some shedding is inevitable—that’s cats! While it’s not possible to stop a cat from shedding completely, there are ways to control the mess.
Brushing your cat helps remove dead hair and fur, and can even lessen the number of hairballs your cat expels. Plus, as VCA Animal Hospitals explains, “daily brushing will dramatically cut down on the amount of loose hair and cat dander floating around the home.” That’s good news for folks with allergies!
Diet is another way to control shedding. As explained by Dr. Jennifer Coates on WebMD, diets high in whole animal protein and an appropriate balance of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids will help keep your cat’s coat and skin healthy.