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  • Writer's pictureBeltsville News

Kitty Post January 2023: Grateful Shed by Sallie Rhodes

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

All cats shed dead hair to release natural oils in their skin, some more than others and for various reasons. Grooming/brushing is recommended to prevent skin irritation.

Most cats go through a shedding cycle twice a year, usually in the spring and fall. In the spring, shedding helps remove the cat’s heavier winter coat. In the fall, shedding prepares the cat for the growth of its winter coat. An indoor cat’s shedding cycle may be affected by exposure to air conditioning, heat, and artificial lighting, causing continual shedding. A cat’s breed can impact it’s shedding. Long-haired cats (Maine Coons, Persians, Ragdolls, etc.) tend to shed more than short-haired cats.

Other factors such as the quality of the food the cat gets can result in unnatural shedding. Cats need balanced diets that include high-quality, nutritionally complete food to promote healthy skin and coat. Stress and age can also affect a cat’s shedding. Cats that are stressed, scared or nervous will shed more. Older cats may not groom themselves as much as younger cats, resulting in increased shedding and matted fur. And finally, a pregnant or lactating cat will shed more as a result of hormonal changes.

While shedding is normal, the appearance of bare patches, irritation, and/or redness on a cat’s skin is not normal and can be a sign of illness. In such cases, a veterinarian may need to check for a skin infection or parasites, and/or perform laboratory tests (blood work and/or urinalysis) to check for diseases. Looking at the pattern and distribution of the hair will determine if the hair is being shed or is breaking off.

There are several potential health conditions that may be the cause of a cat’s unnatural shedding, including parasites such as mites and fleas; allergies to certain foods, household products, or toxics; skin infections caused by bacterial/fungal infections; diseases caused by malfunction of the kidney, liver, thyroid, or adrenal glands; and cancer. In addition, stress and anxiety can cause excessive licking and chewing.

The following tips can help keep shedding under control.

· Feed a nutritionally complete, veterinary-recommended diet.

· Use a veterinary-recommended product to control parasites year-round, even if your cat does not go outdoors.

· Keep your cat hydrated by making sure fresh water is always available.

· Try to reduce the stress in your cat’s environment by providing a place where it can retreat and feel secure. Provide things like food puzzles and enrichment toys to keep their minds and bodies active.

· Use a veterinary-approved brush or comb to groom your cat regularly. Incorporate treats into the process to keep your cat happy and tolerant.

· Cats that need extra help with their fur (older cats or domestic long-haired cats) may need to be taken to a professional groomer for a trim.

· Cats with stress issues that cause excessive shedding may need to be taken to a veterinary behaviorist.

· Sweep and vacuum daily, and regularly wash your cat’s bedding.

Excerpted from an “Adopt A Pet” Blog by Sam Gilbert, VMD, from the University of Pennsylvania.

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