Cat shedding is a common nuisance for pet owners, but it is perfectly healthy for a cat to shed its hair. The amount of shedding depends on a number of factors and differs for every cat, but can start when the cat is under a year old. Excessive shedding can be caused by a number of health reasons that often depend on the age of the cat.
Why Cats Shed
Healthy cats shed their hair all the time. Shedding allows cats to keep cool and maintain an ideal body temperature. Sunlight and artificial heat can have an effect on the amount of hair a cat will shed, so indoor cats may lose less hair over time but shed their hair consistently throughout the year. Outdoor cats lose more hair when the seasons change.
Cats have the same hair follicles for their entire lives, and changes in their coat's appearance depend on changes within the follicle. Kittens are usually born with short, fuzzy fur that will be shed and replaced by courser hair by the time they are 6 to 8 months old. Shedding depends on the breed, age, hormones and diet.
Excessive hair loss may be a sign of illness or stress. While it is normal for kittens to start shedding at an early age, a condition known as congenital hypotrichosis will cause kittens to be born with little to no hair, and eventually be bald by 4 months. Other causes of early hair loss include parasites, ringworm and mange. Kittens are more likely to pick up diseases because of their undeveloped immune system, so signs of excess shedding at this age should be addressed by a veterinarian.
Older cats that start losing more hair than usual may have a hormonal imbalance, such as feline hyperthyroidism, which can cause excess shedding. Older cats are also less likely to groom themselves as often as they used to, so brushing and grooming by owners is especially important as the cat's hair continues to shed naturally.
Cats are known for their self-grooming, but owners may need to take care of those hard-to-reach places. Daily brushing will remove dead hair that can cause matting and tangles. As a cat owner, start a grooming routine when your cat is a few months old and shedding starts.