Everyone who has ever owned a cat will agree that it was one of the best decisions they ever made. They are said to be excellent pets, require just their basic needs to be fulfilled, and soon make it hard for you to imagine a life without them. That being said, cat hair over your clothes and furniture is a minor drawback of having a cat.
Cats have both fur and hair; these terms are not interchangeable but quite different. There are subtle differences between what you can call cat hair and what you should call cat fur, and this article will help you understand them.
What are the differences between cat hair and cat fur?
While they are often confused about each other and considered the same, they are not. There are significant differences between cat hair and fur, the only similarity being that they come from your cat’s coat.
Size, texture, the occurrence of shedding, and protective functions are just some of the factors that can help you differentiate between cat hair and cat fur.
So, here’s a detailed overview of the differences between cat hair and fur.
Cat hair vs. cat fur – Definitions
Usually, cat breeds that do not have thick coats of hair are considered furless. This is because fur, in general, refers to a thick shaggy coat that usually serves the function of protecting the cat from various dangers like the harsh rays of the sun, the cold winter weather, or any other similar climate hazards that could be dangerous for the cat. It also protects their more sensitive skin under the fur from injuries they could suffer because of their active lifestyle. Another function of cat fur is that it helps the animal communicate its needs or wants through body language, similar to when a cat raises its hackles.
Cat hair is way thinner than cat fur. Although it serves a protective function, it is considerably less likely to protect the cat’s skin than fur. Since it is thin and delicate, it can only provide a small layer of defense for the more sensitive skin. It is possibly why furless cats are more susceptible to the sun’s harmful UV rays and are at a higher risk of developing illnesses. The thin hair also does not provide any respite against cold weather and fails to keep the cat as warm as it is supposed to be.
Fur and furless cat breeds
Whether cats are furless breeds or breeds with fur, they bring something to the table and should be adopted based on your needs and ability to fulfill them. Luckily, here are some cat breeds to choose from.
Occurrence of fur
Breed of cat
Cat hair vs. cat fur – The growth rate
Cat fur functions as a coat for the animal; therefore, it grows to a specific length, and once that length is achieved, growth slows down. It may be because cats take it upon themselves to groom their own fur regularly. They lick their own fur and subsequently eat the loose pieces. It is not harmful to them as their stomach can digest this fur, and since it happens regularly, it is not a cause for concern. In fact, this grooming process is an integral part of their routine every couple of months and is essential for the good health of your pet cat.
Regardless of their name, hairless cats have hair on their bodies. What they lack is a fur coat. The hair that they do possess is usually the same color as their skin and also the same color their fur would be if it existed. It is, therefore, hard to pick out with the naked eye. It gives the illusion of hairlessness. The hair on their body is tiny and hard to feel and does not provide any protection against the cold. It also does not grow the way fur does and, for the most part, remains the same length.
Cat hair vs. cat fur – Density
Cat hair usually occurs in small strands, which means they can end up anywhere in your house or on you. Since they are single light strands, they end up on the floor once they fall off the cat and can then be transported to any nook and cranny because of the wind or other similar factors. It is one of the reasons why cat owners find this to be one of the only annoying things about owning a cat. Cat hair can also end up in food items if proper care is not taken and food is left uncovered.
When cats shed fur, they appear in clumps on furniture or the floor. Since fur is thick, it is natural that when it sheds, it will appear in bunches. Even when your cat’s coat is dirty and hasn’t been groomed for some time, you will notice that the fur has clumped together because of the dirt and oils accumulated due to the environment. They usually shed in slightly warmer parts of the season when they do not need protection from the cold. This is when you’ll notice that the shedding of fur occurs more often.
Why do cats shed their fur?
If you’re concerned about finding a lot of cat fur around your house, chances are it’s completely normal, although most cats prefer to take care of the shed fur by grooming themselves. Since shedding fur is a normal part of being a cat, most cat lovers and owners are used to it and find more efficient ways to clean up the mess rather than interfering with the shedding process.
However, there are many less-than-normal reasons why cats could be shedding their fur, especially if it’s happening a lot more often than usual.
Fleas are considered parasites associated with dogs but can also affect cats. And having a flea attached to you is bound to make any animal miserable, dog or cat. For instance, fleas nested on a cat cause irritation and itchiness, which is a source of extreme discomfort to the pet. It also drives them to attempt to get rid of the itching by scratching the area affected.
With heavy scratching, large clumps of fur could fall out and leave bare patches. While this may seem like a less dangerous cause of fur loss, it can be very frustrating for your cat, and it would be best to take it for flea treatment or find a good easy, and safe remedy to get rid of the pests.
Stress can also cause fur loss in cats. Stressed cats are likely to prick their fur to work off frustration or anxiety, as humans prick at their fingers. In extreme cases, affected cats have been known to bite off entire clumps of fur.
It is their way of coping with stress, and you will need to get to the root of what is causing them this stress to stop this coping mechanism and subsequent fur loss. Cats with a more nervous disposition are more likely to suffer from fur loss through stress.
Usually, if the problem is caused by stress, one or more of the following symptoms will eventually show up.
What does it look like?
Your cat shows signs of not eating much, overeating, skipping meals, or eating more food than usual.
They seem to uncharacteristically not get along with humans or other animals and have a low tolerance for any attempt to communicate.
They stay away from everyone and seem stuck in hiding places away from crowds and bustle that they would generally be a part of.
Unstable sleeping pattern
They either sleep too much or have a fractured sleeping pattern where they keep getting disturbed in their sleep at small intervals.
They cannot stay in a place for long and keep pacing for no apparent or significant reason.
Avoid cat flaps
They stay away from cat flaps that they used to do regularly.
Inflamed skin can cause large amounts of pain to the cat, which may lead them to lick the affected area to soothe it. However, it may cause fur loss, especially if done excessively. The more the pain flares up, the more the cat will lick it to ease the affliction.
It will lead to overgrooming and, in due course, cause clumps of fur to fall out. As a cat owner, you need to keep a careful eye on your pet and treat the inflamed area before making sure your cat isn’t able to lick the wound again.
Ringworm in cats, also called feline ringworm, can be one of the causes of excessive fur loss. In fact, one of the main symptoms of this condition is circular loss of fur on the cat’s body in the form of lesions.
Along with this, excessive grooming is also considered a symptom of feline ringworm. So if your cat is losing fur at an increased rate with no visible cause, it could be a sign of the presence of ringworm.
Why do cats shed their hair?
Cats tend to shed their hair a lot, which is normal. The hair on the body dies at regular intervals, much like skin cells, and needs to be disposed of. If the cat doesn’t groom itself regularly, it will not be able to get rid of these dead hairs. Thus, they will fall off naturally.
In some cases, even though the cats groom themselves, they tend to miss certain spots with dead hair follicles, which causes them to shed naturally. It is generally not a cause for serious concern. There are various secondary reasons why cats shed their hair, some are entirely normal, and others need to be monitored.
Alopecia in cats
Like humans, alopecia in cats also points to a similar effect: hair loss. However, in some cats, alopecia is hereditary and not problematic. Cats with hereditary alopecia are furless and comfortable because that’s how they are born.
Being furless is one of their main characteristics, so alopecia isn’t seen as sickness or something that needs to be fixed. They never grow any fur throughout their lifespan.
Cats that have allergies have much higher incidences of shedding hair. This is because when they come in contact with the allergen, it triggers an allergy attack that usually manifests in severe itching.
When faced with this constant itching, the cat will feel compelled to deal with it in the only way it knows how to, i.e., by scratching the itchy area. Obviously, this scratching will bring about more hair loss than usual, especially if it increases in intensity. The more the allergies act up, the more the cat will scratch, leading to more hair loss.
Licking is the medium through which cats groom themselves and get rid of all the dirt, oils, and loose hair that collects on their body. So it makes sense that incessant licking would accelerate hair loss. It could happen for various reasons, the main one being pain.
While licking a wound is a great way to slow down the healing process, cats and most animals don’t seem to understand it. Their response to pain or any discomforting feeling on their body is to lick the area. If the licking gets too much, which happens when a cat overgrooms itself, it is more likely to shed hair.
Fluctuating hormone levels can also cause a large amount of hair loss. An example of this would be hyperthyroidism in cats. This illness occurs due to an overactive thyroid and can bring about the onset of various symptoms, including hair loss.
Even without hyperthyroidism, if the hormone levels in the cat’s body are not balanced, or if there are other factors affecting the hormone levels, it could cause the hair follicles to die before the appropriate time and cause excessive hair loss. In the same way, these varying hormone levels could also inhibit hair’s natural growth, which is supposed to replace the dead hair follicles.
As with humans, medication has side effects that could affect cats, specifically their shedding schedule. This is why most pet owners keep a watchful eye on their pets when starting a new medical treatment or giving them any medicine.
Major hair loss could result from substances in the medicine not agreeing with your cat’s anatomy or proving to be an allergy to it. If the major hair loss coincides with the start of medication, the medicines are most probably what’s causing the condition, and you need to take it up with your vet or at least make him aware.
Weight and age
Both weight and age are also factors that can affect the shedding of hair. For example, when a cat is overweight, it may find it difficult to groom itself regularly the way it used to before. It will cause dead hair to build up, soon falling off naturally. With no self-grooming done, all the hair that was supposed to be disposed of by your cat will now be shed naturally all over your house.
Thus, it will seem like your cat is shedding more than usual. The same applies to older cats. With the aches and pains accompanying old age, they will no longer be flexible enough or have boundless energy to groom themselves like younger adult cats. Therefore, they may also be prone to excess shedding.
How to reduce excessive shedding in cats?
While shedding fur or hair is normal, excessive shedding could be concerning, and even if it is not a health concern, it could be annoying to clean up every day. Thankfully, here are a few solutions to stop or at least reduce this problem that might help your cat and you to a large extent.
Brush your cat’s coat regularly
Although fur is shed naturally, brushing helps remove the fur that is already close to falling without making the cat have to groom itself more than usual. It removes excess fur in a relatively shorter period and inhibits excess shedding. It will also get rid of matted hair.
Regular combing and brushing with a comb suited to your cat’s fur needs will help brush out dead hair and stimulate good blood circulation. You should do this for five to ten minutes weekly for good results, slowly increasing the frequency if your cat has longer fur. The Aumuca cat brush is a good choice for your cat as it is gentle and efficient.
Give them a healthy diet
If there are internal factors that are causing excessive shedding, a healthy diet could be a solution to it. So, ensure that your pet cat is getting all the minerals and nutrients it needs through its diet.
The following are the essential food they should be fed to prevent heavy shedding of fur or hair.
Cats are omnivores and require most of their protein from animal sources for a healthy life. Therefore, their protein intake must come from good quality sources. Cat food containing chicken, beef, and fish is vital to their health.
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
These nutrients are essential for the skin and fur of your cat and can help with excess shedding. They are found in salmon and flax oil but always consult your vet if you plan to add supplements to your cat’s diet.
A low-quality diet will reflect on your cat and could manifest in excessive shedding. On the other hand, a good diet takes care of all your cat’s needs and is especially rich in nutrients that help in fur and skin health.
Keep them hydrated
Water is as essential for cats as it is for humans. Proper hydration ensures proper functioning of the kidneys and the other organs of the body, which will stop excess shedding if it is a product of dehydration. In addition, dehydrated cats develop dry skin that turns flaky, impacting their coat of fur and causing it to decrease in shine.
It will also impact fur growth and cause the already existing fur to shed in large amounts. Cats need a lot of water, and you need to ensure that they have large quantities available when they feel thirsty, especially in hot weather.
Take your kitty for a trip to the vet
In case excess shedding occurs because of a major medical reason, like the side effect of a specific medication or a suspected severe illness, it is best to take your cat to the vet for a more accurate diagnosis that will put your fears to rest.
Usually, in these cases, excessive shedding will be just one of the various symptoms that will plague your cat, as serious illnesses tend to show signs one way or another. Trust your instincts, and if you need a professional opinion on your cat’s behavior, immediately visit a qualified veterinary doctor.
Though there may not be significant differences in what cat hair and cat fur are, there are some pretty subtle ones that can help you distinguish between them.
Whether your cat is an adorable furball or a happy-go-lucky furless feline, what matters is that you love them and know how to take care of their basic needs, whatever they may be. Just a bit of care and attention is all they require to bond with you and become a friend for life.