Shedding is normal for cats and is actually a sign that they are healthy. They shed their old hair so that soft and silky new hair can grow, aiding in their coat maintenance. Additionally, cats lose more fun in hotter months so they can better regulate their core body temperature more effectively.
With that being said, all owners have asked themselves “Why is my cat shedding so much?” at some point. Excessive amounts of cat hair can be extremely frustrating! It gets all over your home and sticks to your clothes. The situation is even worse if you have pet allergies, as excessive shedding can mean your symptoms become worse.
In this article, I help you understand why your cat is shedding so much and what is actually considered “too much” in the first place. I then run through some top tips on how you can limit the amount of shedding to help keep your home clean and your allergies at bay.
Why Do Cats Shed Hair?
Before I delve into why your cat is shedding excessively, we all must understand why cats shed hair in the first place. Although it can be a little annoying having to vacuum up your cat’s mess, shedding is normal for healthy adult cats.
When talking about shedding, we are referring to the process in which cats’ hair gradually malts and falls out. This is to allow for newer, stronger, and healthier strands of hair to grow in its place. This keeps their coats permanently silky and thick. The removal of old hair also helps to prevent their fur from matting which can be problematic, especially for long-haired breeds.
Grooming goes hand in hand with shedding. Cats are meticulous self-groomers that love being clean. Their rough tongues help to collect and remove all hairs that have come loose and are still clinging on. Stroking and brushing your cat works in the same way, which explains why we often find ourselves covered in cat fur after a long petting session.
The amount of hair that cats shed will change throughout the year. This is again nothing to worry about! Some periods of the year and stages in their life will mean cats naturally shed more than usual. However, if your cat’s skin looks irritated or they are shedding like crazy, it could be a sign things have gone too far. Bald patches are another sign that the shedding is at an unhealthy level.
Why Is My Cat Shedding So Much?
Now we know why shedding happens, we can look at why your cat is suddenly shedding more than usual. When reading the below, it is crucial to remember that all cats have their own shedding cycles. Some cats will naturally lose more hair than others, and some will shed consistently whereas others go through periods of losing more or less fur.
It is also important to note that even if you think your cat is shedding too much, it might be completely normal for the time of year or their age. However, some more concerning issues could link to excessive shedding, which I also look at here. If in doubt or need further information, always consult your veterinarian.
1. Poor Quality Diet
The first reason why your cat could be shedding so much is down to their diet. Cats get all their nutrients from the food they eat which they need to be healthy inside and out. This extends to the health of their beautiful fur coats.
As such, a low-quality diet that doesn’t provide your cat with the nutrients they need could lead to constant shedding. If you notice your cat shedding more than usual and you know you have recently changed their diet, this is an obvious link. You can switch back to your old cat food or speak to your veterinarian for recommendations on what you should be feeding your cats.
It is also important to bear in mind that cats need different nutrients depending on their stage of life and their activity levels. So, even if you haven’t recently switched up your cat’s diet, don’t rule out food as the cause of their shedding! It might be you need to rethink their diet based on the current needs of their bodies.
Food is not the only thing that can impact your cat’s shedding – how much they are drinking can also have a big say in the matter. When cats are dehydrated, their skin can start to dry out and become flaky. In turn, this causes their coats to lose quality and their hair will start to fall out.
Some cats will become dehydrated as they simply aren’t drinking as much water as they should be. This is actually a common issue in felines who should be drinking around 4oz of water for every 5lbs in body weight. In other cases, dehydration may be the result of diabetes, diarrhea and vomiting, heat stroke, or a fever.
If your cat is dehydrated, you will probably notice some other symptoms such as:
- Loss of energy and lethargy
- Panting and/or open-mouth breathing
- Reduction in appetite or refusal to eat dry food
- Tacky and dry gums and mouth
3. Health Problems
How glossy, shiny, and healthy your cat’s coat looks is usually a reflection of their internal health. Whereas a healthy cat will have a healthy coat, a sick cat typically sheds more and has a duller coat. Therefore, while a little shedding is normal and nothing to worry about, if your cat is shedding like crazy it is generally an indication that something is wrong.
If you see your cat shedding a lot to the point of hair loss, this is known as alopecia. It can be caused by a multitude of diseases and disorders. As such, your cat should be taken to the veterinarian so you can rule out or treat these medical conditions.
Some of the medication conditions that could be responsible for shedding and alopecia in cats include but are not limited to the following:
- Skin allergies: If your cat suffers from skin allergies, it can cause irritation, rashes, and itching. This can result in excessive shedding and hair loss. Cats can be allergic to all kinds of things, including their food, pollen, dust mites, and even cat litter! Try to reduce the number of allergens in your home to help.
- Ringworm: Ringworm is a nasty parasitic infection that is common in kittens. However, they can affect cats of any age. They cause fungal skin infections in cats and other related skin problems. If you see your cat shedding fur in clumps, they could be losing hair from the infected area.
- Fleas: Fleas are another more common type of parasitic infection. These pesky parasites bite your cat’s skin and can cause an allergic reaction, leading to severe itchiness. Cats will overgroom and scratch in response, causing excessive hair loss. You should administer flea prevention treatment to try and avoid your cat contracting fleas in the first place.
- Thyroid Disease: Both an overactive and an underactive thyroid can cause hair loss and shedding in cats due to a hormonal imbalance. Other symptoms include weight loss, increased heart rate, and periods of hyperactivity.
- Feline Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex: This is a severe skin allergy that cats can suffer from that is usually triggered by a parasitic infection or an allergy. It can lead to patches of swollen and weepy skin that often form on the thighs, chin, and paws. Hair loss in these areas is very common.
4. The Season
If your cat is shedding a lot, it is not necessarily all doom and gloom. Cats naturally change the amount of hair they shed depending on the season. In winter months such as December and January, cats shed less than they do in the summer. They need their thick winter coats to keep them warm throughout the colder days and nights.
As the temperature gets warmer and the days get longer, cats will then start to shed more and more hair. This helps their bodies lose their natural insulation so they are better adapted to the warmer weather and avoid overheating. Around September and October time in the fall when the temperature starts to drop again, their shedding rate will once again start to decrease.
This shedding pattern is much more common in outdoor cats that have to face the extremities of the weather. Comparatively, indoor cats will tend to have a more consistent shedding pattern as they will be less affected by changes to the outside temperature. Instead, the temperature in our home is much more consistent all year round, so the amount of hair they shed is less variable.
5. Stress & Anxiety
There has been a lot of research that shows cats shed more when stressed. This is usually as stressed cats will groom excessively as a means to comfort themselves. This overgrooming can damage the hair follicles and cause their hair to start to fall out. In some extreme cases, stressed cats can even develop psychogenic dermatitis.
If your cat is stressed, you should easily notice as increased shedding is only one of the symptoms we may see. Here are some of the other common signs of stress and anxiety in cats:
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Reduction in their tolerance to people and animals
- Becoming more withdrawn and an increase in hiding behavior
- Lethargy and sleep disturbances
- Reluctance to use the litter tray or cat flap
- Restlessness and/or pacing around
If your cat is showing any of these signs, you should try to pinpoint the cause. Cats love routine and even the smallest changes in their environment or schedule can cause anxiety. For example, you could have changed their cat litter or food, altered their feeding schedule, allowed a new person into your home, or had a party.
The best thing you can do is to remove the stressor where possible and keep everything else in your cat’s life as consistent as possible. Also, ensure your cat has plenty of hiding places to retreat to when scared and that all their basic needs are fulfilled. If their symptoms don’t ease, speak to your vet who will be able to offer more advice and/or anxiety medication.
6. Old Age
The age of your cat can affect how much they shed their hair. Most commonly, senior cats will tend to lose more hair than younger and healthier felines.
This is usually because older cats groom themselves less because of joint or mobility issues. There is also a natural decrease in hair quality with age, making it more likely to clump and for patches to fall out. As already mentioned, several health conditions can also cause hair to fall out. Older cats are more prone to some of these conditions, thus excessive shedding is more likely.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might be wondering “Do kittens shed any hair?”. In truth, they hardly shed any hair at all until they reach adulthood. Up until this point, they have a shorter and fluffier coat that is then replaced with their shiny adult coat. It is only at this point that they start to shed their fur which then continues throughout their life.
7. Pregnancy & Lactation
When a cat is pregnant, they go through an immense period of change thanks to the hormones in their bodies. One such change is in a pregnant cat’s coat. You may notice that pregnant felines start shedding a lot more than usual as all their energy and nutrients go towards growing and supporting the developing litter of kittens.
Increased shedding can continue even after the mother has given birth. A nursing cat shedding a lot is common, particularly on the belly where her kittens are feeding from. The shedding will tend to turn to normal levels once the kittens have been weaned off the mother and she has stopped lactating.
Therefore, while shedding in male cats vs female cats is unlikely to differ for most of their lives, females are going to shed more hair both during and following pregnancy.
The breed of cat you have can dramatically affect how much they shed their hair. For example, cats with curly hair such as the Cornish Rex and Devon Rex hardly shed at all. The same applies to short-haired cats with undercoats such as the Bengal, or hairless varieties including the Sphynx.
On the other hand, long-haired cats such as Maine Coons and Persians are known for their luscious, thick, and glamorous coats. With more hair to start with, it follows that these cats and other similar breeds do tend to lose more hair. This is particularly true if you don’t carry out regular coat maintenance and brushing to help keep their fur looking clean and healthy.
How Can I Stop My Cat Shedding a Lot?
Now we have answered the question “Why is my cat shedding so much?”, we need to look at how to stop it. There are a few things you can do to help stop your cat from shedding so much. Try incorporating one or more of these to dramatically reduce the amount of cat hair in your home:
Change Their Diet
As a low-quality diet can affect the amount of hair your cat is shedding, you should consider changing your cat’s diet. Ensure you are using pet food that is appropriate for your cat’s stage of life. You can also speak to your veterinarian who will be able to offer a more personalized feeding plan based on their age, activity levels, and overall health. Once your cat has adjusted to the new diet, its shedding should improve.
Keep They Hydrated
Keeping your cat hydrated can prevent their skin from drying out and ensure they have a healthy coat. If you don’t think your cat is drinking much, I suggest purchasing a cat water fountain. Cats much prefer drinking from running water than a still bowl and water fountains help avoid whisker fatigue. Plus, they are great for busy owners as you can leave a fountain running for several days before it needs refilling.
Check Their Health
If your cat is shedding like crazy, is it usually due to poor health and underlying medical conditions. For this reason, you should book an appointment with your vet, especially if they are suddenly shedding more than usual or if you see your cat shedding fur in clumps. Your vet will be able to conduct a physical examination to either rule out or treat any underlying medical conditions.
Create a Calm Environment
Stress and hair loss in cats are closely linked. Therefore, creating a calming environment in your home can go a long way in keeping shedding to a minimum. Ensure all your cat’s basic needs are fulfilled, such as having a clean litter tray, nutritious food, plenty of toys, and areas to hide when they are overwhelmed. You should also try to establish a consistent routine in terms of feeding and bedtime.
Brush Them Regularly
Regular brushing can go a long way in helping to reduce the amount of cat hair lying around your home and keep matted fur at bay. This is particularly useful for long-haired breeds or older cats that don’t self-groom as regularly, but all cats can benefit. Your cat will not be shedding any less, but brushing removes all loose hair from your cat’s coat before it falls off around your home.
Bathe Them Once Per Month
Cats and water are notoriously a bad mix. However, another way you can reduce shedding is by bathing your cat once per month. This helps to remove all excess hair and their undercoat. Again, this is particularly useful if you have a long-haired breed such as a Maine Coon. If you don’t want to wash your cat monthly, a good compromise would be to bathe them during the hotter months when their shedding will be worse.
Purchase an Air Purifier
An air purifier for cat owners can again help to deal with the amount of cat hair lying around your home. These gadgets will trap cat hair, dander, and other airborne particles and remove them from the air. However, this does not treat the cause of the problem; your cat is still shedding the same amount, they’re just making less mess. Still, if the other suggestions don’t help this is a useful and practical solution.
Why is it Important to Reduce Shedding?
You might be wondering what all the fuss is about. All cats shed and, in many cases, this is normal feline behavior. So, why is minimizing shedding and hair loss important? As it turns out, there are several advantages to reducing shedding in cats:
Firstly, excessive shedding is one of the causes of matted cat fur. Matting can lead to discomfort for your cat and other skin conditions, as well as looking unsightly. As such, keeping their shedding at a healthy level is important for their overall coat maintenance and good health.
Cats get more hairballs during the times when they shed more fur. This makes sense as cats use their rough tongues when grooming. The more loose fur they have, the more they accidentally ingest which then ends up being regurgitated. Keeping shedding to a minimum helps prevent these nasty hairballs from forming in the first place.
There is nothing more annoying than cuddling your furry friend and getting covered in cat hair. It ends up all over your clothes, your furniture, and every surface in your home. This means you have to spend more time cleaning. Keeping shedding at a healthy level makes it easier for you to keep your home clean.
The situation becomes even worse if you or your family members suffer from cat hair and dander allergies. The more cat hair and dander floating in the air, the worse your allergies will get. Therefore, to help ease your symptoms, keeping shedding to a minimum is an absolute must!
How Can I Clean Up Cat Hair?
Even if you get you can reduce the amount of shedding, you will undoubtedly have some cat hair in your home. This is unfortunately just part of being a pet parent! Having been there myself, here are some top tips to help make cleaning up that pesky cat hair a breeze:
Invest in a Powerful Vacuum
Using a vacuum to pick up the cat hair lying around your home is one of the quickest and most effective methods. However, make sure you are using the right one! Look for vacuums with high suction power and a nozzle specifically for carpets as this is where the majority of cat hair will accumulate.
Use Sticky Tape
If there is cat hair all over your clothes – even the ones you have freshly washed – one of my favorite tips is to use sticky tape to get it off. This is super affordable and effective! Simply stick the tape to your clothes and peel it off again. When it peels off it will take all loose cat hair with it.
Use Lint Rollers
Another option for removing pet hair from clothing and other material surfaces is to use a lint roller. This works in the same way as sticky tape, adhering to the cat hairs and pulling them off the surface. These are better for larger surfaces such as a fabric couch or curtains.
Clean Using the Washing Machine
Whenever you wash anything that is covered in cat hair, some of it will come off in the washing machine. You can further encourage this by using fabric softener which helps loosen the hair from whatever it is you’re washing. Be sure to pick out any bits of cat hair from the washing machine afterward.
Use an Anti-Static Spray
When wiping cat hair from a wooden surface, it often gets blown back into the air only to settle somewhere else a few minutes later. Anti-static spray can help to prevent this. Spray it on all hard surfaces before dusting and it will help the cat hair stick to your cleaning cloth or duster.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
As you can see, the answer to “Why is my cat shedding so much?” is not a straightforward one! Cats shed more in response to the weather. Alternatively, it could be the result of stress or anxiety, old age, pregnancy, or simply the type of breed they are. If you see your cat shedding a lot or all of a sudden, medical conditions could also be responsible.
Regardless of the cause, it is often in both our and our cat’s best interests to reduce the amount of shedding. This in turn minimizes the amount of matting and number of hairballs, alongside helping to keep our homes cleaner and allergies at bay. Using all of the tips in this article should help, but if in any doubt whatsoever speak to your vet.