Your cat’s fluffy coat may be soft to the touch and pretty to look at, but it’s not just there for aesthetic appeal. Your feline’s fur helps to regulate her body temperature, protect her internal organs, and even help to keep her (or her feral relatives) hidden from potential predators.
The condition of your kitty’s coat can also tell you a lot about her overall health—if she’s not healthy on the inside, she won’t look healthy on the outside.
Cat Coat Types
Years of breeding have resulted in domesticated cats with a variety of coat colors and characteristics—not to mention the stereotypes that come with them! While it’s a myth that orange cats are chaotic and black cats are bad luck, it’s still a good idea to gain an understanding of your cat’s coat type and care needs.
Types of cat fur include:
Contrary to what many think, no cat is truly hairless—including the hairless breeds. Instead, these breeds (such as Sphynx cats) are covered in a barely visible layer of fine hair.
Hairless cats need more frequent baths than their furry counterparts. Additionally, because these cats don’t have a thick layer of fur keeping them warm, they have a harder time regulating their body temperature. As a result, they’ll rely a lot more heavily on sweaters and snuggles!
Any cat whose hair is shorter than 1.5 inches is considered a short-haired breed.
Short-haired breeds typically require less maintenance than long-haired or even hairless breeds; unless they have significant mobility issues, they’re generally able to do the majority of their grooming on their own. (That said, it never hurts to pamper your pet with a brushing session every once in a while!)
If your cat has hair longer than 1.5 inches, she’s considered a long-haired breed. Some long-haired cats can even grow their hair up to 5 inches long.
Long-haired breeds tend to shed significantly more than their short-haired counterparts and require a lot more brushing and intentional coat care.
Skin and Coat Problems in Cats
If your cat’s coat is looking dull or thinner than usual, it could be a sign of a skin issue or even a more serious health condition.
Skin and coat problems in cats can be caused by a few different culprits, including:
- Fleas, ticks, or other parasites
- Allergies—whether seasonal, environmental, or food allergies
- Stress or anxiety
- Nutritional deficiencies (such as insufficient protein)
- Loss of grooming abilities due to age or weight
- Various health issues
Signs of skin and coat problems in cats include:
- Increased scratching, chewing, or biting at the skin
- Redness and/or scabbing
- Abnormal lumps and bumps
- Hair loss, as evidenced by a visibly thinner coat and/or bald patches
- Increased hairballs
If you’re noticing increased shedding in the spring, there’s a chance your cat is simply shedding her winter coat in exchange for something lighter. However, it’s always a good idea to stay on the safe side and talk to your vet anytime you notice changes in your cat’s appearance or behavior.
Keeping Your Cat’s Coat Healthy
While most cats are relatively independent when it comes to grooming and self-care, there are always additional steps you can be taking as a pet owner to promote optimal health.
All cats can benefit from brushing. Plus, it’s a great way for you and your kitty to spend some quality time together.
Brushing is helpful for:
- Removing loose or dead fur to keep shedding under control.
- Removing dirt, debris, and skin flakes from the coat.
- Keeping fur from becoming matted.
- Boosting blood circulation to improve overall skin and coat health.
Short-haired cats generally only need to be brushed once or twice per week; longer-haired breeds may need to be brushed as often as every day. Plus, the older your cat gets, the more she may need your help to keep up with her regular grooming.
Because your cat is so good at cleaning herself with her tongue and teeth, it’s rare that she’ll need a bath—especially if you’re brushing her regularly to remove dirt and debris from her coat.
That said, there are times when your cat may need a bath, such as when she’s exceptionally sticky or smelly. Cats aren’t exactly known for enjoying baths, so if you do have to bathe your kitty it’s important to keep the experience as stress-free as possible.
Plan the bath for a time when your cat is already feeling relatively calm (ideally, after she’s worn out from playing or exercising). Use lukewarm water, cat-friendly shampoo, and a hand-held hose, being careful to avoid spraying directly into her face. Don’t forget to dry her off with a warm towel and offer plenty of treats as a reward!
Stress-Free Living Environment
Sometimes, your cat’s skin and coat problems are a sign of another problem, and not the actual problem itself. For example, it’s possible that your cat’s excessive shedding is a result of increased stress and anxiety rather than a skin problem.
Cats are creatures of habit, so it’s important to keep your daily schedule as consistent as possible so your kitty can predict what’s coming next. If you have visitors or other pets in the home, make sure your cat always has a safe, out-of-reach place to escape to.
Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, so make sure to prioritize both for you and your pets alike.
Nutrition & Supplements
Your cat’s diet also plays a significant role in her overall skin and coat health. For example, if her diet is making her overweight, she’ll have more trouble reaching her entire body for grooming, resulting in a lackluster coat.
Poor nutrition can also lead to a poor-quality coat. If your cat’s coat is looking dull, she may not be receiving or absorbing sufficient nutrients. That said, always talk to your vet before making any changes to your cat’s diet.
Some cats may benefit from supplements to boost their skin, coat, and overall health. For example, Pet Honesty’s Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Cats is rich in EPA, DHA, and Omega-3’s to boost your kitty’s skin, coat, joints, and immune system. Just pump the tasty oil directly into her food and mix!