Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why do cats shed in the fall?

Long-haired cats like Franklin are shedding experts

Look around our yard right now, and you might think cats have been fighting all day and all night. There are tufts of orange and white hairs covering almost all available surfaces. Tiny bits of white hair float through the breeze. And when you check the bottoms of your shoes, you'll probably see orange hairs embedded in the treads.

While the outdoor cats haven't been fighting (thank god), one of them has been shedding up a storm. Long-haired Franklin seems to think it's time to molt.

And it got me to thinking.

If cats use their coats to stay warm, why would they lose their coats when the weather cools off? Wouldn't they need their coats?

Turns out that cats have several different types of hairs that grow out of the same follicles. Each hair goes through a period of growth, and at the end of that period, it is sloughed off. When the days become longer or shorter and the cat's coats are exposed to different amounts of light, a switch goes off and the cat knows its time to shed. In the fall, the cat is shedding the long, smooth hairs of the summer coat and growing the short and fluffy hairs of the winter coat. In the spring, they'll do the reverse.

Outdoor cats shed more during these transitional months than indoor cats do because outdoor cats are exposed to more sunlight. They can sense the change in the season more acutely, and so their coats respond more thoroughly as well.

Interesting stuff, huh?

If your cats will tolerate the help, amp up your brushing routine in the fall. Spending just 5 or 10 minutes every other day could help your cat to lose that coat without developing painful mats. If you cats won't tolerate the help (as Franklin won't, because he's feral), consider adding fish oil to the food. That supplement helps the fur to stay a little slicker, so it can resist tangles a little better.