Should I Get a Short-Haired or Long-Haired Cat?

If you are in the process of selecting a new cat for the household, one of the first items on your checklist should be whether to get a short-haired or a long-haired feline. Personal preference generally drives this decision. If your dream has always been to own a cat that looks like a living stuffed animal or a Star Trek Tribble with legs, then nothing will stop you from making a long-haired cat the first choice. However, there are some important factors to consider before Fluffy becomes a part of the family.

Cat hair (also referred to as fur or coat) falls into several distinctive types. Some cats may have a double or even triple coat. The undercoat, which is also known as down, is the softer fur closest to the cat's skin. The longer, stiffer hairs are known as guard or awn and they usually form the cat's color and assist in keeping your cat dry. All cats have fur, even the Sphynx, which has extremely fine short hair.

What are some typical cat breeds that fall into the long-haired and short-haired categories?

Short-Haired Cats

Long-Haired Cats

Careful consideration should be given when selecting a long-haired feline. Simply put, there is more work involved. According to Karine Collins, Office Manager for the VCA Upper Keys Animal Hospital in Islamorada, Florida, "Long-haired cats are higher maintenance due to the extra grooming and combing they require. There is also a greater chance of matted fur and hairballs."

Long-haired cats may also require a "vanity cut" in the hind region, in order to prevent a dreaded emergency trip to the bathtub after a litter box malfunction. In this grooming technique, the fur on the hindquarters of the cat is cut or shaved very short. Most groomers and animal hospitals know how to perform this cut.

Extremely long-haired cats will require vigorous combing with a firm wire brush three to four times a week in order to keep the fur smooth and free from tangles or mats. Even so, the warmer months will bring increased shedding for a long-haired cat, so expect additional sweeping, mopping and vacuuming in order to keep the fur balls under control. A large Persian in Southern California during the summer can shed enough fur to build an extra cat or two! You may also want to invest in bulk supplies of lint rollers, especially if your long-haired cat has lighter colored fur, and you are fond of wearing black.

Cat owners who suffer from allergies should consider the extra maintenance and vigilance that will be required from owning a long-haired cat. Allergies are caused by cat "dander," which consists of microscopic flakes of allergen found in cat saliva. The allergen is transferred to cats' fur when they groom themselves. Since long hair holds more dander, the possibility for allergic reaction is increased. There are a few simple steps that will help reduce allergic reactions to both short and long-haired cats. Owners should invest in air purifiers (Hepa is often recommended), and prevent cats from sleeping on the bed, or keep them out of the bedroom entirely. Rubbing a damp cloth over the cat to remove dander is also helpful, as is washing the hands frequently with an antibacterial soap after cat petting.

No matter what the hair length, cat owners should consider investing in some professional grooming products to help keep the fur from flying. On the less expensive end are hand brushes such as the FURminator de-shedding tool, which is a specially designed comb. On the higher end, cat owners may consider some of the cat vacuum products, although most kitties are not fond of the noise produced by vacuums. Some come with extra long attachments to that the offending noisy part of the machine can be in a separate room.

Whether your final decision for cat ownership involves a sleek short-haired beauty or a glorious long-haired puff ball, adoption should always be considered first. There are so many homeless cats and your local animal shelter is a great place to begin. An online search will also provide many opportunities for adoption, and large chain pet supply stores also hold adoptions on the weekends.

Longhaired cats might be slightly harder to find, since short-haired cats are more common. However there are numerous Persian and Himalayan cat rescue groups listed on the Internet who are looking for good homes. Both short-haired and long-haired cats are celebrated and adored, whether it's Morris the famous orange cat who used to represent Friskies years ago, or the fluffy white Diva that graces the Fancy Feast ads today. Follow your heart to the best fur length for you and your family while keeping a few common sense tips in mind. The result will be "purr-fect" for both you and the new addition.