Finding hair on your furniture, clothes and everything else in sight is a fact of life for a cat owner. The cleanup seems never-ending as more hair appears every day. Your cat is not intentionally trying to drive you insane, it's just a side effect of his natural shedding process.
When Shedding Happens
Contrary to popular belief, your cat doesn't lose hair just to annoy you or keep vacuum and lint brush companies in business. His hair loss follows the seasons, or more specifically, the amount of sunlight available during the day, with spring and fall being the two biggest shedding times of the year. In the fall he sheds to make room for the thicker layers of hair he'll need to keep warm during the winter, and those thick layers fall out in the spring. Temperature has nothing to do with the amount of hair he loses, or when the hair starts to fall out.
The hair follicles of outdoor cats tend to follow more natural shedding seasons, but the cushy life of an indoor cat can affect this process. Because shedding is affected by light availability, the year-round artificial light inside your home can essentially confuse your cat's body, altering the way it sheds. This means that you may not see heavy shedding twice a year, but a lighter, more constant shedding all year long.
Minimizing the Mess
Just about all cats shed, so unless you decide to adopt a hairless breed like the Sphinx, you're going to have to just deal with it. But you can minimize the amount of hair coating your home by taking a few steps to control the problem and collect the hair before it becomes airborne. Brush your cat regularly to remove as much dead hair as possible, increasing the frequency if he seems to be shedding more than usual. Vacuum regularly and wipe down surfaces daily to prevent the hair from collecting in too thick a layer.
When It's a Problem
Because shedding is a cyclical process, you shouldn't worry about your cat ending up bald no matter how much hair you find all over your couch. But if he's losing hair in clumps or his skin looks irritated or scaly, you may want to take a trip to your veterinarian to make sure there's no underlying medical reason for the sudden loss. Conditions such as ringworm or allergies can cause unusual hair loss, requiring medication and professional treatment to correct.
- Tabby cat taking a cat nap on a pair of shoes image by mario beauregard from Fotolia.com
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