Why Is My Cat Shedding So Much?

Key takeaway

Shedding is a normal and healthy occurrence for cats that allows them to get rid of dead or damaged hair. However, excessive shedding and frequent self-grooming, sores, and bald spots can indicate a deeper problem. It’s important to consult a veterinarian if there’s an increase in hair loss to determine the best course of treatment. 

We’ve all been there: vigorously using a lint roller on our clothes to gather all of the hair left behind from our feline friends. It can be frustrating, overwhelming, and concerning when an abnormal amount of fur is involved. 

Rest assured that shedding is natural, regardless of breed or hair length of your cat. It’s what keeps your cat’s coat looking shiny and full of life. However, if you’ve recently started asking yourself, “Why is my cat shedding so much?”, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, you’ll learn all about why cats shed their fur and when excessive shedding is a sign of another condition. Keep reading from beginning to end for a deeper understanding of your cat’s shedding habits or use the links below to skip to the sections that interest you. 

Why Do Cats Shed Their Fur?

Cats will often shed their fur to remove dead or damaged hair and release oils back to the skin’s surface. To get a better understanding of this, you must be familiar with their hair growth cycle, which includes the following four stages: 

  • Anagen—New hair grows in quickly 
  • Catagen—Fur stops growing because it’s at full length 
  • Telogen—Hair is neither growing or falling 
  • Ecogen—Existing hair falls out, effectively making way for new hair follicles to grow 

Cats will also have two periods during the year where they’ll experience heavy shedding. This primarily happens in the spring and fall,1 allowing your cat to have a light coat during the warmer months and a heavy coat during the colder season.

Do Both Indoor Cats And Outdoor Cats Shed?

All cats, including indoor and outdoor cats, will shed their fur periodically. Still, the frequency, occurrence, and amount will vary between the two.

Indoor cats can shed their coats all year because of the lack of environmental cues. For example, cats residing primarily indoors often experience cooler temperatures in the summer due to air conditioning and warmer winters thanks to heaters. This, along with artificial lighting, can throw your cat’s physiology off balance, causing them to shed constantly.2 On the other hand, outdoor cats will shed less than indoor cats because they’re more in sync with the seasonal changes that arise. 

When Should I Be Worried About My Cat’s Shedding?

Cats shed every day, allowing your cat’s skin and fur to remain healthy. However, if you notice the following symptoms along with excessive shedding, there could be something wrong:

  • Frequent self-grooming
  • Biting, chewing, or scratching
  • Bald spots
  • Sores or cuts 
  • Increase of hairballs

It’s important to speak with a veterinary professional if your feline is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above. This will allow your cat to receive the appropriate treatment and reduce hair loss. 

Note: Regurgitating hairballs is a common practice among cats and can occur once or twice a week.3 In general, hairballs don’t pose a threat unless they ingest a significant amount of hair or wad of tangled fur. While much of the ingested hair exits the body, some traces of hair can remain in the intestinal tract, causing it to grow bigger over time. 

What Causes Excessive Shedding?

Several factors can cause your cat to shed excessively, making it difficult to pinpoint the root of the problem. To help you get to the bottom of your cat’s excessive fur loss, here are a few potential issues that may result in more shedding:

  • Malnutrition—Not receiving a proper diet can weaken your cat’s coat and make it lose its shine. As a result, they may experience more hair loss. 
improper nutrition can weaken your cat’s coat, thus resulting in hair loss
  • Allergies—Food, flea, and environmental allergies can trigger itchy skin, leading your cat to scratch themselves more than usual. Eventually, the scratching can cause hair loss and other skin problems, like cat dermatitis. Fortunately, allergies can be managed with the proper medication and lifestyle changes.
  • Parasites—Mites, fleas, ticks, and lice can cause your cat to become very itchy, leading to them scratching their body frequently. This increase in scratching can cause your cat to lose an abnormal amount of hair.
  • Hyperthyroidism—One common symptom of hyperthyroidism in cats is uneven hair loss. While hyperthyroidism isn’t reversible, treatment can hinder shedding.
  • Pregnancy and lactation—Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and lactation can lead to temporary shedding.4 Once your cat has finished lactating, hair shedding should return to normal. 
  • Infections—Skin infections caused by bacteria or fungus, like ringworm, can cause your cat to experience hair loss. 

Keep in mind that certain cat breeds, especially long-haired breeds, may shed more than others, such as Persians and Maine Coons.5

How to Groom Your Cat to Help With Shedding

Although cats groom themselves, you can help them remove loose fur, dead skin, and grease from their coat and reduce the amount of fallen hair around your home. Plus, regularly brushing your cat’s fur can provide several other benefits, such as:

  • Minimizing the likelihood of your cat developing mats or hairballs, which can result in interstitial blockages. 
  • Making it easier to notice sudden changes in their skin caused by infections or parasites before they become a problem.
  • Bonding time with your feline friend.

To support your cat’s grooming, here’s how to brush your cat in a few simple steps:

1.Gather your equipment for the specific type of cat you have. For example, long-haired cats will benefit from metal combs, whereas short-haired felines can use a rubber brush.

long-haired cats benefit from metal combs

2.Check your cat’s skin before brushing. If the skin is free of bald spots, fleas, ticks, bumps, and wounds, you can brush your cat as normal. However, brushing when these symptoms are present can irritate the skin further.

3.Gently brush your cat’s coat in the direction of hair growth, making sure to remove dead and tangled hair. If your cat has matted fur, you can use talcum powder and your fingers to carefully free them or trim them off.

When grooming your cat, it’s vital that you start slowly and attempt to make the process as enjoyable as possible. Make sure to also give your cat a lot of praise so that they can associate grooming with positivity. This is extremely helpful in the long run since the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends you brush your cat one to two times a week. 

Besides setting a grooming routine, you can also feed your cat a diet that encourages a healthy coat to minimize shedding and the grooming frequency. This can also help if your cat’s shedding is caused by food allergies. Here are a few additional tips that can decrease shedding:

  • Use anti-flea medication to prevent hair loss caused by parasite allergies
  • Consult a groomer or vet to find out the best tools for cat grooming 
  • Bathe your cat once a month with fragrance-free soaps to wash away dirty skin
tips to reduce shedding

When You Should Be Concerned About Your Cat’s Shedding

There’s a difference between normal shedding and hair loss. If your cat is shedding a lot in a short amount of time, it’s worth it to get an exam done at your vet’s office. 

A licensed veterinarian will examine your cat’s coat and conduct labs, including blood work and skin scrapes, to determine the reason for their excessive shedding. Once they identify what’s causing your cat to shed, they can provide treatment and guidance to keep hair loss under control. 

Before visiting your vet, make a note of all of your cat’s symptoms, such as the amount of hair they’re losing, bald spots, and the look and feel of their fur. 

My Cat Is Shedding: Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve noticed your cat spitting up more hairballs or an increase of loose hair in your home, it can signify an issue beyond normal shedding. We’ve answered some common questions about excessive shedding in cats to help you determine what to do next for your feline. 

How can I stop my cat from shedding?

Unfortunately, you can’t stop your cat from shedding. While there are many ways to hinder the amount of hair a cat loses, shedding is a natural occurrence that’s essential for healthy fur and skin. 

Is it normal for indoor cats to shed a lot?

Yes, it’s normal for indoor cats to shed a lot because of their environment, which typically includes air conditioning, heaters, and artificial lighting. 

Do indoor cats shed seasonally?

Some indoor cats are in tune with the seasons and will shed seasonally. However, most cats that live inside will constantly shed throughout the year. 

Final Notes

Shedding is often not a cause for concern—especially if your cat’s coat and skin looks and feels healthy. However, if your cat is obsessively self-grooming, biting themselves, coughing up more hairballs than usual, and has bald spots, it may be time to get help from a professional. A vet will help you determine what’s causing your cat’s excessive shedding and provide the next steps to treat underlying conditions. 

If you’re worried about feline hair loss triggered by allergies, we’re here to help. Use our high-quality pet telemedicine services to seamlessly schedule a remote appointment with a licensed veterinarian and receive treatment for your cat’s condition right to your doorstep. Get started with Dutch and learn how we can assist with your cat’s hair loss problem. 

References

  1. Moriello, Karen A. “Structure of the Skin in Cats.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/skin-disorders-of-cats/structure-of-the-skin-in-cats.

  2. Patterson, Jay, et al. “Differences Between Indoor Cats and Outdoor Cats.” Everyday Health, https://www.everydayhealth.com/pet-health/differences-between-indoor-cats-outdoor-cats/.

  3. The Danger of Hairballs.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 21 May 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/danger-hairballs.

  4. Moriello, Karen A. “Alopecia in Animals.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/integumentary-system-introduction/alopecia-in-animals.

  5. A Hairy Dilemma.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 21 May 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/hairy-dilemma.