All furry felines do their share of shedding, so don't worry if some hairs fall out here and there as you pet your cat. Seasonal shedding can get pretty messy. Ask your vet about persistent or excessive hair loss though, because it could indicate a skin health issue.
As the seasons change, so does your cat's fur. Most felines have several coats during the cold seasons, but only one or two in the summer. Felines can't exactly change their clothes at will depending on the temperature. That means you are in for a whole lot of shedding as the climate cycles between warm and cool periods each year. Cats continuously lose hair year-round too; new hairs emerge and old ones fall out. Each hair progresses through three stages, after which it breaks from the follicle and is let loose, according to the Cornell Center for Materials Research. Brushing your cat several times a week stops loose hairs from building up in your cat's coat.
Self-Inflicted Hair Loss
As vain as your cat might be, self-grooming is an activity that every feline participates in. Some do it too much though. Over-grooming is an undesirable behavior that your cat might engage in if he's bored or stressed out. By constantly licking the same areas, he damages and rips out hairs that aren't ready to fall out naturally. Talk to your vet about the problem and possible solutions. Removing the stress-inducing entity for your cat's environment may help. You could also equip him with a cone collar for a while to curb the behavior.
Hair loss is common in cats with fleas. Your cat damages his hair follicles when scratching at bites, which makes the hair in those areas much weaker. As you run your hand across the fragile hairs, some may break loose. Cats unlucky enough to have an allergy to flea saliva can lose large patches of hair completely. Mites are smaller than fleas, but they can be just as detrimental to your pet's skin health. Fleas, mites and other pests are never a good thing, so consider giving your outdoor cat a preventative ointment to keep the creepy crawlies away.
Food Allergies and Diet
What goes in your cat's mouth can make a huge impact on how his hair falls out. Nutrient deficiencies make your cat's fur brittle and more likely to break. Low fat content in food contributes to hair loss in some kitties, so talk to your vet about giving your cat an omega-3 fatty acid supplement if you have her on a diet, Manhattan Cat Specialists recommends. Cats can also have allergies to all sorts of things, including gluten, chicken and beef. Food allergies make your cat's skin inflamed and itchy, which is bad news for her hair.
Skin infections, like the ringworm fungus, are pretty common in cats. These infections are largely superficial, but they do damage the hair follicles that support your pet's hair. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) don't always cause hair loss, but their widespread impact on your pet's health can make her shed more, according to the DC Academy of Veterinary Medicine. Skin ailments usually aren't emergencies, but have your kitty looked at if she's shedding and itching constantly. Thyroid dysfunction and other hormonal imbalances can also lead to hair loss.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.