Long-haired cats are valued for their thick and furry coats, but this does mean they shed a lot more than short-haired cats. Since cat hair seems to stick to everything, most cat owners would prefer to eliminate shedding if they could.
Although it’s natural for cats to molt, excessive shedding can indicate an underlying health problem. Our objective is to show you how to reduce shedding in cats, and learn how to recognize if your cat’s shedding is a cause for concern.
Cat Hair Shedding Solutions
One (or more) of the following solutions may help to reduce shedding:
- Visit the Vet – If your cat is shedding much more than usual or there are bald patches in the fur, this could indicate an underlying illness. In this case, it’s advisable to rule out any health conditions before trying other interventions.
- Improve your Cat’s Diet – Cats need good nutrition to produce a healthy coat. We’ll show you which nutrients may help to reduce shedding.
- Hydration – You should aim to hydrate your cat’s fur from the inside out, but also from the outside in – by providing enough humidity in the air. This will promote a healthy hair growth cycle and prevent clumpy fur and cat dandruff.
- Reduce Stress – In rare cases, excessive shedding can be caused by stress and anxiety. Making your house more “cat-friendly” can help to reduce the amount of shedding in felines.
- Groom your Cat – Long-haired cats can develop mats and tangles in their fur if they are not groomed regularly. If you learn how to groom your cat effectively, you’re less likely to find clumps of cat hair around the house.
- Remove Fur from Your Home – Part of the reason cat shedding is so bothersome is that the hair sticks to carpets, furniture, and clothing. If you learn how to get rid of cat hair, cat shedding won’t be such a problem.
Throughout this guide, we’ll explore each cat shedding solution in more detail. Before we do that, let’s explore why, when, and how cats shed their fur.
Why Do Cats Shed their Fur?
As you’d probably expect, shedding is a natural part of your cat’s hair growth cycle. They need to get rid of old fur to make way for healthy new hair growth. Except for a small number of hairless cats such as Sphynx, all healthy cats shed their fur.
There are four stages to a cat’s hair growth cycle:
Once hair reaches the ‘resting’ stage, it can be dislodged through grooming. Most able-bodied cats will groom themselves daily so that they will dislodge unwanted hair at a pretty consistent rate. In a small number of cases, excessive grooming (due to illness, flea infestation or stress) could result in bald patches.
Once the hair reaches the ‘shedding’ stage, it will fall out regardless of whether the cat grooms themselves or not. If your cat is shedding a lot of hair at once, this might indicate they are not grooming themselves effectively at the ‘resting’ stage. As such, it might seem as if an unusually large amount of hair is falling out at the ‘shedding’ stage.
Not all cats shed at the same rate. The following factors can influence how much and how often your cat molts:
- Health Status
- Ambient Temperature
Nevertheless, according to AAHA, by far the most influential factor is sunlight.
When Is Cat Shedding Season?
In nature, cat shedding is mostly dictated by the seasons. Cats who live outdoors will have two significant sheds per year. They’ll lose their winter coat in early spring because this excess fur is not needed in the warm summer months. Then, they’ll shed a lot of fur in late autumn to make way for their thick winter coat.
According to Science Direct, sunlight acts as a cue for cats to shed their fur. When the days get longer, the extended hours of sunlight trigger a chain of hormonal events that result in shedding. If your cat lives indoors, they are unlikely to receive the same light cues, so they’ll probably shed at a pretty consistent rate throughout the entire year. First-time cat owners are sometimes concerned to see their cat losing fur throughout the year, but this needn’t be a cause for concern unless the shedding is very excessive.
If your cat does spend some time outdoors, it would be quite normal for them to shed more hair than usual in early-spring and late-autumn.
How Much Shedding is Normal in Cats?
If you’re a first-time cat owner, you might be wondering – Is it normal for cats to shed lots of fur? Although it might seem like your cat is shedding a lot of hair, consider their coat as a whole: does it look smooth and healthy? Is the fur molting evenly or is your cat only losing hair in certain areas? If your cat’s shedding is being caused by an underlying condition, you’ll often see additional symptoms such as:
- Bald patches in the fur
- Cat shedding fur in clumps
- Excessive shedding and dandruff
- Color changes to the fur (not always a cause for concern but this can be a sign of sun damage when accompanied with hair loss)
- Very hard or scaly fur
- Hair loss near the tip of the tail
- Vomiting and producing furballs – this suggests that your cat has been grooming more than usual, so they might be shedding too much fur.
If your cat has any of these symptoms, this warrants further investigation. Let’s explore these symptoms in a bit more detail so you can eliminate any medical causes to your cats shedding.
What Causes Bald Patches in the Fur?
If your long-haired cat has developed bald patches in their fur, this is a sign that something is amiss. Here are the most common causes of excessive shedding with bald patches:
- Fleas – If your cat has a flea infestation, they will scratch and overgroom certain areas.
- Ringworm – Parasites such as ringworm can cause patchy fur.
- Allergies – These can cause a thin coat to develop – perhaps including bald patches.
- Bacterial Pyoderma – Bacterial infections can cause round patches of alopecia to develop.
- Mange (Demodicosis) – Mites can infiltrate your cat’s skin and cause a condition called demodicosis. This is more likely to occur in short-haired cats such as Siamese and Burmese, but it can also occur in long-haired cats.
The above conditions all cause excessive shedding and patchy hair loss in cats. If your cat’s hair is thinning diffusely (i.e., hair is falling out at a consistent rate throughout the whole body), this is more likely to indicate a hormonal imbalance (including pregnancy) or a nutritional deficiency.
Why Is My Cat Shedding Fur in Clumps?
If you’re finding clumps of fur around the house, this is not necessarily a cause for concern. It might just indicate that your cat needs grooming more often. Having said that, clumps of fur can sometimes indicate the following:
- Stud Tail – If clumps of fur are falling out from the tail, your cat might have a problem with the sebaceous glands in their tail. Stud tail is most common in male cats who’ve been neutered or cats with poor hygiene.
- Unable to Groom (Due to Obesity, Old Age, Illness, etc.) – As mentioned, cats who groom themselves daily (and those who are groomed by their owners) will dislodge some of the hair in the ‘resting’ growth phase. If this hair is not dislodged, large amounts will come out during the ‘shedding’ phase, so it may appear to be coming out in very large clumps – when it is just an accumulation of old hair that has not been groomed. This is why it is essential to groom cats frequently – especially long-haired cats.
- Thyroid Conditions – Hair falling out in clumps may indicate a thyroid disorder. Flame retardant chemicals (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers) used in some carpets, furniture, garden products, and pet foods may cause thyroid conditions in some cats. As such, limiting the use of these products may help keep your cat healthy.
Excessive Shedding and Dandruff
Dandruff is not just found in humans; those white flakes can often be found in the fur of long-haired cats. If you’ve noticed dandruff in your cat’s fur, try to tackle this issue as soon as possible because many people (especially children) are allergic to cat dandruff.
So, what causes dandruff in cats? Often, it is due to poor humidity in the air which can dehydrate their skin. Dandruff can also develop in cats who are unable to groom themselves. It’s important to say that if your cat has white flakes in their fur and they are shedding excessively, your cat probably has mites rather than dandruff. The Cheyletiella mite has the appearance of dandruff but requires specialist treatment from a vet.
Once you’ve eliminated the above conditions, there are some additional things you can try to reduce your cat’s shedding. With that in mind, here are five ways to reduce cat shedding in long-haired cats.
Check your Cat’s Diet
Cats require 41 essential nutrients to be healthy. Unlike humans, cats are obligate carnivores – so some of their protein must come from animal sources. One of the first signs of poor nutritional status is a dull, dry coat that sheds excessively.
Is There a Cat Food that Helps with Shedding?
First and foremost, it is vital to provide your cat with a “complete” source of nutrition. Most “complete” cat foods are wet, but it is possible to find some dry ones, too. “complete” cat food will include:
- Meat Derivatives – Meat provides taurine, iron, and some B vitamins. Some cheaper cat foods include mostly plant-based proteins and only very small amounts of meat, so it’s worth checking the labels.
- Fish Derivates – Fish provides essential fatty acids, iodine, calcium, Vit A, and Vit D.
- Cereals – This provides a source of thiamine, niacin, and fiber. Some cereals also help the digestive tract to stay healthy.
- Vegetables – These provide vital vitamins and minerals (including Vit C and E).
- Added Vitamins and Minerals – Possibly selenium, copper, and additional B vitamins.
Feeding your cat a “complete” cat food should ward-off excessive shedding. However, if your long-haired cat is already shedding a lot, you might consider adding an Omega 3 & 6 fatty acid supplement to their diet.
Studies have shown that excessive cat shedding supplements (i.e., essential fatty acids) can improve the texture and shine of a cat’s coat and reduce shedding. EFA supplements for cats often come with added antioxidants and digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes can help your cat break-down and pass furballs. If you’d like further information on cat supplements, it’s a good idea to speak to your vet for advice.
Is your Cat Hydrated?
Dehydration can cause a multitude of problems, including dry fur and excessive shedding. Older cats, immobile cats, and cats living in hot, arid environments, are prone to dehydration.
To ensure your cat stays hydrated, follow these tips:
- Cats should eat wet food at least half of the time because they get most of their water from their food. If your cat won’t eat wet food, try soaking kibbles in water overnight.
- Cats will not drink dirty water so make sure their bowl is cleaned out daily.
- Offer a small portion of cat milk every now and again to increase their fluid intake.
- Cats like to explore the home and will often drink water from wherever it is available, whether that be a dripping tap, toilet, sink, or puddle. If you want to dissuade this behavior, do not shout at your cat when you see them doing this because it might discourage them from drinking altogether. Instead, provide clean, fresh water in bowls throughout the house.
- Cats will bask in the sun all day given the chance. On very hot days, limit your cat’s exposure to the sun (this includes sunlight that comes through the windows). This will prevent dehydration, dry skin/fur, and sunburn.
- To make sure your cat’s skin and fur stay hydrated, consider increasing the humidity inside your home – especially if you live in a dry climate. Increasing the humidity may help to promote a healthier hair growth cycle and stop your cat from over-washing their fur.
Manage Stress Levels
Do cats shed more when they are stressed? The short answer is yes, some cats may shed more when they are stressed. This phenomenon is probably most noticeable in long-haired cats because their hair is thicker and longer.
So, how can you tell if the shedding is stress-related? If your cat has lost a large amount of hair in a small space of time, they may have encountered a very stressful situation like moving to a new house. If this is the case, the hair will usually grow back, and the shedding cycle will return to normal quite quickly.
On the other hand, patchy hair loss could signal stress-related overgrooming. This might suggest that your cat is dealing with a longer-term stressor such as living with a pet they are scared of. If this is the case, excessive shedding will probably continue until the stressful situation is resolved.
How to Groom a Long-Haired Cat
If your cat has suddenly started to shed more fur, consider when you last groomed them. Try to groom your cat every day. That way, it will seem as if they are molting a lot less. So, what’s the best way to groom a long-haired cat?
There are four main tools you can use to keep your cat’s fur tidy:
- A Soft-Bristled Brush (Nylon or Boar Bristles) – These soft brushes help to distribute natural oils through your cat’s fur and slough away any loose hair. This type of brush is very soft, so there’s little chance of hurting your cat when using it. This brush preps the hair for additional grooming, but it is not fine enough to detangle thick fur.
- A Long-Bristled Brush (Usually Made of Plastic) – The long bristles can enter deep into the fur, remove dirt, and tease out any tangles.
- A Wire Slicker Brush – These are very effective at removing hair that’s in the ‘resting’ phase. If your cat has lots of fur to groom, this brush is ideal. However, it’s important to handle this heavy-duty brush carefully to avoid causing pain to your pet.
- A Fine-Toothed Comb – These are useful for combing hard-to-reach areas. It’s advisable to use a fine-toothed comb on your cat regularly because it will catch any fleas/flea eggs that may be lurking in the fur.
Each grooming tool has a different function so it’s a good idea to invest in all four if you can. Grooming your cat daily can help get rid of the excess fur, but it can have many other benefits, too.
Additional Benefits of Grooming your Cat
- Your cat will swallow less fur when they groom themselves.
- Grooming reduces matting and tangling. Matts can cause intense pain – especially if they get caught in things when your cat is walking around.
- It stimulates circulation (may help to support the hair growth cycle).
- Glands are stimulated which helps to make the fur waterproof.
- Sebum is spread throughout the fur. This keeps it looking shiny and adds a layer of protection.
- There will be less cat hair on your bedding, carpets, and clothes.
- Grooming your cat is the perfect bonding opportunity (especially when using a soft-bristled brush).
If you own a long-haired cat, grooming them daily is a no-brainer; your cat stays healthy, your bond grows stronger, and your home stays clean.
How to Clean up Cat Fur
Although you can’t stop cat shedding altogether, you can limit its impact by cleaning up after your cat thoroughly. If you want to reduce cat hair in your house, follow these tips:
- Vacuum Daily – After grooming your cat, vacuum the floor immediately. Many people find robotic vacuums help them keep on top of the cat hair.
- Use a Pumice Stone – Vacuums are not always 100% effective at removing cat hair. Rubbing a pumice stone across the carpet can help lift any cat hairs that have been left behind.
- Microfiber Dry Mop – If you have laminate floors, this is the best way to remove cat hair.
- Polycotton or Synthetic Bedding – Cat hair sticks to cotton bedsheets like glue so avoid cotton bedsheets if your cat sleeps on the bed.
- Choose Furniture with Washable Covers – Running the covers through the dryer will help to eliminate cat fur.
- Clean Upholstery – Cat fur often sticks to sofas and upholstered furniture. Try mixing some water and fabric softener in a spray bottle and spraying lightly onto the upholstered surface. Run a clean cloth over this surface to remove those unwanted cat hairs.
- Lint Rollers – These are great for removing fur from clothes.
- Give your Cat a Home of Their Own – Try to encourage your cat to sleep in a cat bed, or on a particular blanket. This will at least isolate most of the cat hair to one place. You can then run their bed/blanket through the washing machine regularly to keep it clean.
Minimize Cat Shedding for Good
Although cat shedding is annoying, it needn’t stop you from loving your cat. In fact, if you help your cat get rid of their surplus fur through grooming, this seemingly annoying trait actually becomes a great bonding opportunity.
So, besides grooming, let’s review some other ways you can manage cat shedding:
- Check your cat is getting a balanced diet – consider supplementing with essential fatty acids.
- Is your cat hydrated? Hydrating their body (and their environment) will help them to grow a healthy coat.
- Is anything stressing your cat out? Removing any sources of stress from your cat’s environment (no matter how small) may help to improve their coat and reduce shedding.
- Clean up after your cat immediately if you don’t want to be bothered by cat hair in the house.
Finally, pay close attention to any changes to your cat’s fur. Shedding (even when it seems excessive) is rarely a cause concern, but if you see bald patches, fur falling out at the tail, or dandruff-like flakes, you should seek advice from a vet.