What To Do If Your Cat Is Shedding

Hair! It's what we love to touch; it's what we hate to find on the sofa. The hard fact that all animal lovers must accept is that animals shed their hair. Just as humans have periods of hair growth and shedding of hair, so do animals.

This is a normal event in the life of a cat and it is largely influenced by daylight. There is a word for this phenomenon: photoperiod. The number of hours a cat is exposed to sunlight in a day (photoperiod) triggers the shedding process. It is more noticeable in outdoor cats in the spring and fall.

Indoor cats shed more consistently but in lesser amounts because of the artificial light inside the house. This cyclic shedding is made up of three periods: active growth (anagen), transition (catagen) and rest (telogen). Cats tend to have heavier coats in the winter months than they do in the summer.

Stress and illness can cause excessive shedding. A chronically ill cat that is shedding may also suffer skin lesions, as well as thin and abnormally wrinkled skin and scaling. In cases of excessive shedding a veterinarian should examine the cat.

Brushing and Combing

Shorthaired cats shed as much as longhaired cats. The difference is that with shorthairs the hair is less noticeable until someone sits down on one of your chairs. Longhairs tend to leave little "hair tufts" positioned on the rug or a favorite lounging area. The best way to combat shedding in both longhaired and shorthaired cats is to be consistent in grooming. By brushing or combing your cat regularly you can remove the dead hair that has worked its way from the undercoat to the surface coat. If this hair is not removed it will start to tangle with the healthy new hair and begin to form mats.

Cats with a very close coat such as Burmese, Siamese, cornish rex and ocicats benefit from a "Grooming Glove." This is a glove equipped with fine rubberized nubs over the palm. Other tools that work well with close-coated breeds are a soft chamois rubbed gently over the coat, and a soft rubber brush like "Zoom Groom Soft Bristles."

One of the best brushes to remove hair from medium-coated cats like American shorthairs, Scottish folds, and British shorthairs is a round boar's hair bristle brush. This brush can get to the dead hair without irritating the cat's skin.

For longhaired cats, a comb is a must-have tool. The best type of comb is a "Greyhound Style Comb," which is hand-polished steel. "Peak" combs are comparable to the Belgian-made greyhound combs. The best size to have is a 7 1/2-inch long comb with 1 1/8-inch teeth. Half of the comb should be coarse and half should have fine teeth. Pin brushes are also good as grooming tools as they separate the hair, are gentle on sensitive skin and remove snarls.

A handled flea comb works well to groom the face of a cat no matter what the length of the coat.

Products to Reduce Shedding

There are also some products on the market that can be applied to your cat's haircoat to reduce daily shedding. However, their effectiveness is questionable.

One such product is called "Shed-Guard." It is applied daily to the cat's coat until noticeable shedding is reduced and then the treatments are decreased to once weekly.

Oral treatments are available such as "Laveta Shedding Supplement for Cats," which claims that it can reduce the shedding process. The product advertises that it leaves the cat with a silky shiny coat. Another oral product to promote hair growth and prevent excessive shedding is "Lipiderm/Liqui-Gel."

When all is said and done the most important method of cutting down on shedding and maintaining a healthy coat is a program of grooming on a regular basis. Grooming, if done gently, bonds the owner and pet, and it helps to control the natural behavior of rubbing, scratching, and shaking which causes shedding problems within the house.