Shedding is seen in all mammals who have hair or fur. There will be phases where he sheds more than others, and factors such as whether he is an indoor or outdoor cat, stress, health all play a factor in how much hair he sheds. Even breeds such as the Devon Rex with their short, curly coat can shed, although as they typically have shorter hair, it is less noticeable than on regular coated cats.
Just like with human hair, cat hair grows in four cycles:
- Anagen – This is the active growing phase of the hair.
- Catagen – This phase signals the end of the active growing phase, hair growth slows down.
- Telogen – The resting phase of the hair cycle.
- Exogen – Shedding phase.
The cat sheds a small amount of hair every day, however, how much hair is shed is influenced by daylight (known as photoperiod). Outdoor cats tend to have a large shed during the spring months, whereas indoor cats are more inclined to shed throughout the year but in smaller amounts. In autumn/fall, the coat of the outdoor cat will begin to thicken for winter.
The above description is the normal shedding process of the cat. However, there are some medical causes of shedding in cats. These include:
- Anagen defluxion – Sudden loss of hair during the anagen phase, drugs and illness.
- Telogen defluxion – Sudden loss of hair during the telogen phase, sickness, stress, birth and estrus.
The below conditions relate to alopecia (partial or complete hair loss) and not hair growth/shedding. But can all be causes of hair loss in your cat.
- Feline symmetrical (endocrine) alopecia: The exact cause of this condition isn’t known, but it is believed to be related to hormones, it is seen most often in desexed (spayed/neutered) cats.
- Hyperthyroidism: Caused by a benign tumour of the thyroid gland, hyperthyroidism can result in thinning hair in the cat.
- Over-grooming (psychogenic alopecia): This is caused by stress, which causes your cat to over-groom, which is self-soothing to him. Left unchecked, hair thinning or loss can occur.
- Cushing’s syndrome: Excessive production of cortisol either due to medical administration or a tumour of the adrenal or pituitary gland.
- Parasites: Ringworm, walking dandruff and fleas can cause bald or thinning patches on the coat.
- Poor diet: A malnourished cat will have fewer reserves in general, which can have an impact on his coat.
- Seborrhea: Excessive production of sebum which can result in inflammation of the hair follicles, causing hair loss.
How to reduce shedding in cats
Be aware that some shedding is normal, and you will never be able to completely eliminate it. Cats shed a small amount daily, and a larger amount in spring, as the days become longer. Daily brushing will help to remove loose hairs from your cat’s coat. It only takes 5 minutes to do and is a great opportunity to spend a bit of time with your cat and while you’re grooming him, check him over for lumps and bumps.
Not only does this reduce the amount of fur being shed on the carpets etc., but it also helps your cat, who ingests a large amount of hair during grooming. If enough is swallowed, hairballs can occur. Long-haired cats are prone to developing mats in their coat, which if left long enough can begin to pull on the skin causing pain.
Make sure he is fed a good quality, well-balanced diet.
Try to keep your home environment as stress-free as possible, cats don’t like change and can become stressed very easily. Maintain routine and always find time to play with your cat. Avoid making sudden changes if possible.
If hair loss is a problem, and/or you are noticing bald patches, a trip to your veterinarian will be necessary to rule out a medical problem.