Nearly all cats shed. Some long-haired cats doff hair in equal amounts as short-haired cats, but others have double or triple coats that up the shedding ante by sheer (and shear) volume. Even when they shed an equal number of hairs as their short-haired brethren, longhairs' coats yield longer hairs.
All About Shedding
Unlike human hair, cat hair grows in cycles.
Outdoors, cats typically shed their old coats twice a year—once in the late spring and once in the late fall—in response to changes in light and, to a lesser degree, temperature. Indoors, this process is disrupted by artificial lighting, and cats often continuously shed.
In addition to hair, skin particles called dander accompany shedding. It's like dandruff.
Shedding is completely natural and healthy, but extreme hair loss or degradation can indicate an underlying medical condition. See a veterinarian as necessary. Causes include allergies, ringworm, bacterial infection, fleas, hormonal imbalance, poor diet, stress, medication issues, pregnancy or lactation and sunburn, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Long-Haired Breeds vs. Short-Haired Breeds
All furry creatures shed—humans included—but when it comes to cats, long-haired varieties run the gamut. That's because there's not so much a long-haired breed as there is a long-haired gene pool. Because the gene for long cat hair is recessive, both parents must carry it to spawn long-haired offspring.
Cats with undercoats shed more than those without undercoats. You can tell if your cat has an undercoat by examining his coat. Although some people talk about "medium-haired" cats, the term carries no objective delineation. Most so-called medium-hairs are probably longhairs.
Purebred long-haired cats first emerged in Europe in the 1500s, according to most accounts. Among them, Balinese and Siberian cats shed less than most and Maine Coon and Persian and Somali cats shed more. Long-haired breed coats are typically two to six inches.
Hair's the Thing
Regular grooming quells excessive shedding. Short-haired cats and single-coat long-haired cats need only a weekly brushing session. Double-coat longhairs require brushing twice or thrice weekly, and triple-coat longhairs may require daily grooming. This extra attention can intensify your bond with your cat.
Many long-haired cats have double coats. The same is true of some short-haired cats.
Diet affects shedding. Vitamins A and E, omega-3 and omega-6, fish oils and linoleic acid are rich in antioxidants and, added to an otherwise balanced diet, may help combat excessive shedding.
Cat hair can induce allergic reactions, but it's not the hair itself that's the culprit. Cat saliva contains the responsible enzyme, which covers cat hair following self-grooming.
Balinese and Siberian cats are hypoallergenic despite their longer coats because their saliva contains comparatively low amounts of the enzymes responsible for allergies.
Two to three baths a week can remove more than 80 percent of allergens from your cat and diminish allergen production, according to some studies. Most cats don't take kindly to bathing, though.
If you're concerned about hair-covered furniture, consider leather upholstery, which is easier to clean. Your dryer's lint trap captures bolts of hair, but must be cleaned after every load for maximum efficiency. Use tape rollers on your clothes.
- Petside.com: Pet Shedding 101
- Hartz: How to Control Your Cat's Shedding
- Cornell Center for Materials Research: Ask a Scientist! Sunlight Plays Major Role in Cats' Hair Cycles
- WebMD: Cat Shedding
- CatChannel.com: Grooming Your Longhaired Cat
- Cat-Breed-Info.com: Long Hair Cat Breeds
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Shedding
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Keep Fur in Mind When Picking Shorthaired or Longhaired Cat
- Caster: Should I Get a Short-Haired or Long-Haired Cat?
- Cat Fanciers' Association: CFA Breeds
- Caster: Top Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds for People with Allergies
- Catster: Domestic Long Hair Cats
- TheCatSite.com: Shedding—Long Hair vs. Short Hair
- PetPlace.com: Choosing a Domestic Longhair
- PetBehaviorProblems.com: Which Pet Is Best for Your Life Style?
- Petside: The Clean Freak's Guide to Pet Shedding
- Pet Assure Newsletter: Tips to Help with Shedding Cats
- CozyCatFurniture.com: What You Should Know about Cat Shedding
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images