Do Cats Get A Winter Cost?

Cats are known for having luxuriously soft and thick fur coats. But does their fur actually change between seasons from summer to winter? It’s a common question cat owners ask when they notice their feline friends sporting a fuller, fluffier coat as the weather turns colder. In this article, we’ll explore the ways cats’ coats adapt for winter and summarize the key factors that trigger fur changes throughout the year.

Cats Grow Thicker Fur in Cold Weather

As winter approaches, cats grow a thicker undercoat to help insulate them from the cold weather. This winter coat consists of two layers – a dense undercoat combined with a longer outer coat.

The undercoat is made up of fine, downy fur that traps air close to the skin to retain body heat. This undercoat can be two to three times thicker than the summer coat. The outer guard hairs are longer, coarser, and glossy to repel water and keep the undercoat dry.

According to the Catonsville Cat Clinic, “the undercoat that grows in the fall helps cats stay warm by trapping air close to the body to maintain body heat.”

This winter fur growth is triggered by the decreasing daylight hours and colder temperatures in fall and early winter. The thicker coat helps cats stay comfortably warm even in frigid conditions.

Cats Shed More in Spring

As winter turns to spring and temperatures start to warm, cats begin shedding their thick, heavy winter coat. This includes shedding the insulating undercoat that helped keep them warm during cold weather. Shedding allows cats to transition to a lighter summer coat that’s better suited for warmer temperatures. According to The Spruce Pets, cats will shed the most in the springtime, often starting in April or May. This is when most cats will shed their winter undercoat completely. The shedding process can last 4-6 weeks as the heavier fur falls out and is replaced by new, lighter hair growth. Excessive grooming and hairballs are common during this heavy shedding period.

Day Length Triggers Fur Changes

As days get shorter and winter approaches, cats’ bodies respond by growing a thicker, fuller winter coat to keep them warm. This seasonal coat change is triggered by decreasing daylight hours, which signal to cats’ brains to thicken and lengthen their fur. Most cats begin growing their winter coats around late September/early October as the daylight hours shorten.

According to Cats Best, the pituitary gland monitors day length and releases hormones that stimulate hair growth. The decreasing daylight hours of fall trigger increased production of these hormones. This results in cats growing a dense undercoat beneath their longer outer guard hairs to provide insulation against the cold.

By late March/early April, as daylight hours lengthen, cats shed their heavy winter coats. The pituitary gland decreases hormone production in response to longer days, signaling fur to transition back to a lighter summer coat. This seasonal shedding allows cats to stay comfortable as temperatures warm.

Indoor vs Outdoor Cats

Cats that live primarily outdoors experience greater seasonal variations compared to indoor cats. Outdoor cats are exposed to sunlight, temperature fluctuations, rain, snow, and other elements that impact their coat. Studies show that cats who spend time outdoors develop thicker, more insulating winter coats to protect them from the cold weather. Their coats may be up to 30% thicker in winter compared to summer.

Indoor cats are sheltered from most weather extremes. While their coats still react to seasonal light cycle changes, the differences are less pronounced than outdoor cats. However, even exclusively indoor cats may grow longer, denser fur in winter. Owners may notice more shedding and static electricity from thicker winter coats.

In a Reddit discussion, cat owners shared observations of outdoor cats developing extremely thick, fluffy coats in winter. One owner described their cat as doubling in size when its winter coat grew in (source). These dramatic seasonal changes demonstrate how outdoor exposure impacts cats’ winter coats.

Breed Impacts Winter Coat

Cats come in a wide variety of breeds, and breed plays an important role in determining the thickness and length of a cat’s winter coat. Longhair breeds like Persians, Maine Coons, and Norwegian Forest Cats have the most pronounced seasonal coat changes. Their long, thick fur grows even fuller and fluffier in winter to provide insulation from the cold. According to, Maine Coon cats can grow up to 5 inches of fur in the winter! In contrast, shorthair breeds like Siamese have much less noticeable coat changes between seasons.

The gene that causes long fur in cats also triggers more substantial winter coat growth. So longhaired breeds will shed a lot more in the springtime as their heavy winter coats are shed. Persians especially are known for having incredibly thick “woolly” winter fur that requires extensive grooming and shedding assistance when spring arrives. Overall, longhair cats get the most dramatic winter makeovers each year.

Diet and Supplements

Cats who eat a balanced diet with proper nutrition will grow a healthy winter coat.[1] Look for cat foods high in omega fatty acids, as these promote skin and coat health. Foods with fish ingredients like salmon are a good source of omega-3s. Vitamins A, E, and B-complex are also important for skin and fur condition.[2]

Some cat owners find adding supplements like fish oil or coconut oil to their cat’s diet improves coat lushness. Always check with your vet before giving any supplements. Cats with food allergies or sensitivities may have issues with dry, itchy skin and shedding. If this occurs, try an elimination diet under veterinary guidance to identify problem ingredients.

Providing the right nutrition through a high-quality cat food supports your cat growing a healthy winter coat and minimizing shedding issues.




Grooming Tips

Regular brushing can help cats shed their winter coat when the weather starts warming up in spring. As the days get longer, cats naturally begin to shed more. Frequent brushing with the right brush removes loose hairs before they can get matted in your cat’s fur. Using slicker brushes or de-shedding tools can help pull out the thick undercoat hairs as they loosen up.[1]

Focus on brushing areas where fur tends to mat more easily, like the belly, behind the legs, and around the neck. Gently working out knots and tangles will minimize the amount of fur your cat swallows from self-grooming. Always brush in the direction of hair growth to avoid irritation. Increase brushing to daily during peak shedding season.

In addition to brushing more often, you may need to bathe your cat more frequently in spring. A warm bath can further help loosen the winter undercoat so it rinses away more easily. Be sure to use a cat-safe shampoo and thoroughly dry your cat after its bath.

Potential Health Issues

Skin and coat issues are an important health indicator for cats. According to veterinarians at VCA Hospitals, skin and coat problems can signal hormone imbalances, infections, parasites, allergies, and other illnesses. Some issues to watch for include:

  • Dull, brittle fur – This can indicate malnutrition or thyroid problems.
  • Patchy, thinning coat – This may signal kidney disease or hyperthyroidism.
  • Excessive shedding – This can point to stress, poor nutrition, or allergies.
  • Bald spots – These may come from ringworm, mites, fleas, or other skin issues.
  • Oily or flaky skin – This suggests dermatitis, mange, yeast, or seborrhea.
  • Rashes, crusty skin – These can arise from mites, allergies, autoimmune disease.

According to Figo Pet Insurance, major coat and skin changes in cats should always be evaluated by a vet to diagnose and treat any underlying illness.


In summary, cats do indeed grow thicker, fuller coats in the winter to help them stay warm when temperatures drop. The change in daylight triggers increased fur production, with most shedding occurring in the spring. Indoor cats may not experience as dramatic of a coat change compared to outdoor cats. Certain breeds like Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats are equipped with denser fur. Providing a nutritious diet and supplements like fish oil can encourage a healthy winter coat as well. Regular grooming and brushing is beneficial to minimize shedding and hairballs. However, excessive shedding or bald spots may indicate an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention. While cats are well equipped to handle the cold, pet owners can take steps to ensure their felines stay cozy and comfortable when winter arrives.

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