From the luxuriously coiffed pampered Persian to the seemingly low-maintenance coat of the Domestic Shorthair, cat guardians know one thing for sure — cats shed and cat hair gets just about everywhere. Cat shedding is the daily process of cats losing their dead fur, and how to reduce cat shedding is a multi-pronged approach. While grooming is one obvious tactic, the experts weigh in on how to properly maintain your cat’s coat, reduce cat shedding and improve your kitty’s overall health along the way.
One of the main distinguishing factors in cat breeds is their coats. According to Carolyn Black, founder of Carolyn’s Mobile Cat Grooming, all cats are triple-coated (down hairs, awn hairs and guard hairs) but some have a denser third coat, like Persians, Himalayans and Maine Coons, and require more maintenance. Black says the three least-shedding cat breeds are: “the Sphynx, the Rex and the Russian Blue.”
While Sphynx cats, who are naturally hairless, appear very low-maintenance, think again. “Be prepared to bathe them often because their skin gets greasy from their natural oil production,” Black says. But, they are the winners in the no-shedding department.
Sphynx guardians may not have to take arms against the fur-ball dust bunnies, but most cat guardians do. The best way to maintain your cat’s coat and reduce shedding may surprise you.
“The main way to control shedding is through their diet,” says Lana Fraley Rich, Catsultant®. Dry, flaky skin and bouts of excessive shedding can be signs that your cat is nutritionally deprived. “Cats are obligate carnivores, and they require a high-protein, high-fat diet, without animal by-products or corn, wheat or soy.” A poor diet will result in a poor coat. Rich recommends feeding premium wet food, which contains less calories than dry food and helps to replace the valuable moisture cats lose daily through urination and their grooming routine.
For those who must economically rely on dry food, Rich recommends adding a little extra fat, which will provide omega-3 fatty acids from butter or fish oil (like krill) that will improve your cat’s coat. But be patient — it can take up to 3 months before you physically see the results.
Shedding issues are also another reason to get your cat on a healthy diet. “Sadly, overweight cats can’t groom themselves properly,” Black says. “Obese cats can’t reach the area along their spinal column where their oil glands are, which increases shedding and can lead to matting. Not being able to get to their backends also leads to uncomfortable matting on the haunches as well.” Mats are more than a cosmetic issue. Rich has found that when cats are physically uncomfortable, it is not uncommon for behavioral problems to occur.
Not every brush is created equal! In fact, not every grooming arsenal even contains a brush. “I rarely use a brush,” Black says. Instead, both Rich and Black recommend using a variety of steel-tooth combs like a Greyhound Comb. Without regular combing, matting is much more likely to occur. Black also recommends the ZoomGroom, which massages as it grooms, but does not replace combing.
A little grooming goes a long way. “Grooming is a relationship builder between you and your cat,” Black says. “It’s also important to remember that cats thrive on routine.” Black recommends having a 15-minute grooming session every night — but taking it slow. Concentrate on one area of your cat’s body at a time by splitting it into four sections. Carefully comb the area, and stop if your cat gets overstimulated. “You’ve groomed your whole cat by the end of each week,” Black says.
This ritual will also help with reducing your cat’s stress levels. That’s important because cats who are stressed shed more. For cats unaccustomed to grooming, make it more enjoyable by using healthy treats as positive rewards. “Approach each grooming session with calm confidence,” Black says. “Cats take emotional cues from their people, so make it relaxing and something you and your cat look forward to.”
Twice a year, your cat becomes a shedding machine. “Cats shed more in spring and autumn, so it’s important to keep up that grooming routine,” Black says. If your cat suddenly starts shedding more, and it’s not during the two peak shedding seasons, it could be a red flag that something is wrong.
“Cats shed more when they’re stressed, which can come from environmental issues or from disease,” Black shares. “If you see a drastic change in how much your cat is shedding, always get him checked by your veterinarian right away because cats can go from fine to not fine in no time at all.”
So, whether you live with a huge fluff ball or a sleek mini-panther, basic coat maintenance will ensure your cat sheds less, looks good and feels great!
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