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Why Is My Cat Shedding So Much?

Cats shed normally, but sometimes it seems like they shed excessively. We jump in and discuss what excessive cat shedding is, what causes it, and how owners can manage shedding.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: June 26, 2023 | 9 min read

cat climbing up on a lady with cat hair all over her leg with a lint roller

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Cats shed regularly, so finding tufts of cat hair about the house is not unusual. Cat shedding is a natural process that occurs due to numerous factors such as genetics, health, and environment. Normal shedding is expected in all breeds except those that are genuinely hairless, like the Sphynx. Though owners expect shedding, there are times when there is more hair than usual. This leads to the question many owners often ask, why is my cat shedding so much?

Normal shedding may be heavy, but there are reasons why it can increase. Owners must pay attention, as some of these shedding triggers may be related to underlying medical conditions. Cats lose and regrow countless hairs in the millions. Shedding is a sign that your cat is healthy and growing. However, excessive amounts can be a cause of concern for owners.

When is a cat shedding too much? What can owners do to manage shedding? When is it time to call the vet? And what to do about all that hairy mess? We jump in and discuss some of the most asked questions owners have about cats shedding excessively.

Why Cats Shed

Cats shed as part of a natural process. Shedding releases dead skin and hair and helps to spread natural oils throughout the coat. Despite this regular shedding, healthy cats’ coats will still appear thick, shiny, and healthy. This steady cycle is pivotal to keeping your cat’s skin and coat healthy.

The shedding cycle has three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. During the anagen phase, the hair follicles are active and growing. During the catagen phase, the follicles shrink, and hair growth decreases. The telogen phase is the resting phase, where hairs fall out and new growth begins. The shedding process occurs during the telogen phase.

Felines are avid and talented self-groomers. However, they will need regular brushing from their owners to help remove excess hairs. Brushing is also how owners can help manage cat sheds and the amount of pet fur left around their homes.

What Is Excessive Shedding?

siberian cat laying down getting brushed

Excessive shedding is any time that your cat sheds more than usual. You may notice that they leave more tufts behind or shed a large amount of fur at once.

Cats shed daily but experience a heavier shed once or twice a year. Some breeds shed more than others, but most will have heavy coat loss periods during seasonal changes. These happen when temperatures warm in the spring and again when they cool during fall.

Older cats often shed more than kittens, and indoor cats shed all year round but shed less than outdoor kitties overall. This is due to a more controlled temperature and less exposure to sunlight.

It can be challenging to determine how much is too much, but other signs can often help owners realize if their feline friend is losing more hairs than usual. Always take note of any other behavioral changes in your cat around the same time. Pay attention to what is happening in their environment, as these are all clues as to why your cat might be molting excessively.

When Cats Shed More: When Is Shedding Season?

Felines shed all year round. However, there are certain times of the year when they are likely to shed more. This is due to releasing old hair allowing new thicker coats to grow in colder temperatures and then again to shed that growth when temperatures warm up again.

These seasonal changes can trigger higher rates of fur release, called molting, generally occurring in the early spring, late summer, and early fall. Most cats do not shed more during the winter, as they need to keep those thick coats intact and full to keep them warm.

The molting season can last from a week or two up to a few months. Cats who are losing hair sporadically may not be receiving enough natural sunlight. Owners should always ensure purr babies can access windows where natural sunlight shines through. Not only do they love to take a nice afternoon siesta there, but this is also a key component of keeping their coats healthy and their shed cycles normal.

9 Reasons Cats Shed More Than Usual

Cats molting excessively can be due to some underlying medical conditions. Take note, inspect your pet, and seek veterinary attention if your pet seems distressed or has any other signs like skin irritation or behavioral changes.

Feline Alopecia

A kitty losing hair excessively with a thin coat and thin spots in specific areas may be experiencing feline alopecia. Many different causes can trigger this condition. These include infections like ringworm or parasites like mites and fleas. In some cases, feline alopecia can be triggered by allergies. Finding the underlying cause of alopecia and working with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan is essential. Some felines can experience what is called psychogenic alopecia. This kind of alopecia is triggered by anxiety and stress. Most commonly, with psychogenic alopecia, hair loss is seen around a kitty’s flanks.

Allergies

Allergies can include environmental triggers, as well as elements in their nutrition. Feline alopecia is most often accompanied by itching and changes in behavior, including over-grooming, pulling out hair, excessive licking, scratching, biting, and an increase in hairballs. Felines may also experience skin sores, changes in appetite, vomiting, digestive issues, and lower energy levels. Some allergies can affect the skin, which will also trigger hair loss. Owners should remember that feline allergic skin reactions are common, but it can be extremely hard to detect the cause.

Fleas & Ticks

Fleas and ticks are horrible pests that can cause significant issues and discomfort to your pet. These bugs bite your kitty’s skin, Latch on, and then feed off their blood. These parasitic pests can carry disease and can also cause kitties to have skin irritation, rash, and lose hair. These pests can be hard to eliminate, so you must work closely with your veterinarian. Most often, a topical treatment helps, and there are preventive treatments owners can use as well. If you allow your cat to play outside, it is crucial to inspect them daily for flea and tick bite marks.

Ringworm

Ringworm is another condition that causes hair loss that owners must pay attention to and get prompt treatment for. The term ringworm refers to a fungal infection that creates a ring-shaped skin rash. Ringworm infection can affect both humans and animals. In felines, this is most often caused by the Microsporum canis fungus. This is a highly contagious infection but, fortunately, is entirely treatable. Any feline can develop a ringworm infection. However, long-haired breeds and young kittens tend to be the most at risk. Ringworm is notable for the round sores on its skin, which may cause hair loss. Ringworm infections also trigger excessive grooming, leading to bald patches in specific spots. The coat may also look less shiny, seem weak, and hairs will start to break.

Your veterinarian will need to diagnose your kitty and then prescribe treatment, often a combination of oral and topical treatment. You will also need to disinfect any areas, surfaces, or objects that have come in contact with your infected cat. Ringworms can live on objects and surfaces for almost two years. If your kitty has ringworm, it is especially important that you disinfect your home promptly to prevent the spread.

Hypothyroidism

Like humans, the thyroid glands play a huge role in many body functions for felines. In particular, they control hormones. An irregularly functioning or damaged thyroid gland can lead to hypothyroidism. This can cause a reduction in hair follicles and also cause a hormone imbalance. The thyroid gland does not produce enough growth hormone, which can lead to hair loss. Thankfully there are medications your veterinarian can prescribe to ensure the proper level of thyroid growth hormone. Once your kitty is on treatment, their hair should grow back in.

Poor Nutrition

Felines are obligate carnivores who need diets high in animal proteins. This is particularly important for their growth and overall development. A feline’s diet greatly affects their skin and coat health. Their coat health will be impacted if they do not have a proper diet full of healthy vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. Felines need high amounts of protein, minimal amounts of carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of fat in their daily diet. In some cases, cats can pick up parasites if they are eating raw meats, which is something owners must be very conscious of.

Old Age

As kitties age, they may start to lose more hair. Felines who develop arthritis may experience pain and have difficulty grooming themselves. This may cause it to seem like they are losing more, as they cannot groom that excess fur away themselves. Age-related hair loss is generally mild, though some felines can inherit hereditary hair loss.

Over-Grooming

Over-grooming can be triggered by anxiety, stress, pain, itchiness, or an underlying medical condition, including those listed above. This can cause loss and even complete removal in certain areas. If your purr baby is licking and grooming themselves to the point of causing bald patches, it is best to discuss this with your veterinarian to try and find the root cause.

Other Disease

Sometimes, losing fur can be a side effect of medication or a serious disease like cancer. However, most felines that are simply losing excess hair do not have cancer. There will be many other symptoms, including growing lumps, lethargy, coughing, odor, sores, and pain that will be far more noticeable than extra hair loss. This is called neoplasia, a very rare form of feline cancer. Most likely, a small bit of excess shed is not any indicator of a disease like this. However, if you are concerned, it is important you reach out to your vet to perform the appropriate examinations and diagnostic tests.

Cat Sheds A Lot When I Pet Her

A kitty losing fur when being petted is most likely a stress reaction. When cats get stressed, their muscles tense up, which causes some of their hair follicles, called telogen hairs, to release. Sometimes, kitties may be stressed when touched and uncomfortable, causing more fur to fall out. In other cases, owners may notice more fur coming off as they pet their cat, but this may simply be loose hairs stuck in the coat that is removed due to the petting motion.

How To Reduce Cat Shedding

Cat being brushed on face

There are several myths about feline shedding that are prevalent among feline owners. It is important to understand that owners can manage pet hair, but it is highly unlikely to reduce the actual amount an average kitty sheds. One common myth is that shaving a cat will reduce molting. This is untrue. Shaving a feline can be harmful and is not recommended. Another myth is that feeding kitties a specific type of food can reduce hair loss. While a balanced diet is essential for feline health, it will not necessarily reduce the amount lost.

Managing feline shedding involves a combination of grooming, diet, and supplements. Regular grooming is essential to remove loose fur and prevent matting. A healthy diet rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce coat loss. Supplements such as fish oil and biotin can also be beneficial.

There are several feline grooming tools and products available on the market. Brushes and combs are the most common tools used to manage hair loss. Shed-control shampoos can also be beneficial, along with dry shampoo, to keep coats clean. When choosing a grooming tool or product, it is essential to consider your kitty’s coat type and grooming needs.

An owner’s responsibility is a huge part of managing how much a feline sheds. Along with ensuring your pet is in top health and has proper nutrition, pet parents are responsible for cleaning up after their cats. Managing the level of kitty fur you allow to build up in your home makes an enormous difference. Investing in a high-quality vacuum design to handle pet fur is something every owner should consider. Investigating an air purifier, especially near the litter box, is also worthwhile. Air purifiers help reduce the amount of dust, dander, and allergens in the air. For owners concerned about excess shedding, there may also be a concern about air quality, Especially if anyone in the home has any kind of feline allergy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much shedding is too much for a cat?

Determining if a feline sheds too much is a tricky process. It all depends on how much your purr baby usually sheds. If you notice a rapid increase in true hair loss, thin, dull-looking coats, bald patches, irritated skin, rashes, sores, matting in the coat, or parasites like fleas and ticks, it is definitely time to get involved. Anytime a kitty seems unhealthy, in poor spirits and their overall health is affected, it is best to contact the vet.

How do I stop my cat from shedding so much?

It is impossible to stop a kitty from shedding or reduce the amount they shed normally. The best thing owners can do is invest in high-quality grooming tools and engage in regular grooming sessions with their feline family members. Try to do this at least once or twice a week, depending on your kitty’s coat thickness and length. Helping them remove this excess hair will prevent it from building up around your home and keep their skin and coat as healthy as possible.

Do indoor cats have shedding seasons?

Indoor kitties generally shed steadily all year round, but they may start to shed more as temperatures change. In the summer months, owners often want to keep their homes cooler and warmer in winter. Though these cats are not going outside, these temperature changes will trigger molting. Cats do better and shed less in cooler temperatures, so owners who hope to keep the shed to a minimum may want to keep the home at a moderate to low temperature.

Final Thoughts

Feline shedding is a normal behavior and a natural part of a cat’s life. Felines usually shed regularly throughout the year and may experience higher levels during seasonal temperature changes. However, some felines may start to shed more than usual, and this can be due to underlying medical issues like allergies, hormonal imbalances, and parasitic infections. In some cases, felines may shed more if they are stressed out, scared, or anxious. This is a natural, instinctual reaction. Owners must do their part to keep their purr baby’s coats in good health through regular grooming and inspection of their pet’s skin and fur.

If you are concerned about your pet shedding, or skin health, it is best to contact your veterinarian. They can help rule out any underlying medical causes and direct you towards correct treatment and preventative measures, including supplements.

Two grey kittens next to person's hand with pump of dry shampoo foam

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