Fur Flying. Is Your Cat’s Shedding Normal or Excessive?

What is normal shedding?

Normal shedding in cats is the natural, regular loss of old or damaged fur. All cats shed to some degree throughout the year as part of the hair growth cycle. Typically, cats will shed small amounts of fur daily through grooming and will undergo more significant shedding one or two times per year (https://www.catcareofvinings.com/blog/all-cats-shed-but-whats-normal-and-whats-not/).

The amount of shedding can vary based on factors like the cat’s breed, age, environment, and health. In general, short-haired cats will shed less than long-haired cats. Kittens and senior cats may shed more. Stress, dry air, and seasonal changes can also impact shedding. But even heavy shedders typically only lose up to a couple tablespoons of fur per day through normal shedding (https://www.felinemedicalclinic.com/cat-shedding-whats-normal-and-whats-not/).

What causes shedding?

Cats shed because of their natural hair growth cycles. Cat hair growth occurs in phases, with old hair falling out as new hair grows in. This is a normal process called shedding or molting.

Cats shed more heavily during seasonal changes when their coats adjust from thicker winter coats to cooler summer coats. The increasing daylight in spring and summer causes cats’ hormone levels to rise, which triggers heavier shedding. Many cats will shed their winter coats starting in the spring, with shedding peaking in late spring into early summer. Their summer coats are much lighter and thinner. Then as days get shorter in the fall, cats begin shedding their summer coats to grow in thicker fur for winter. Shedding is often heaviest in the fall during this coat change. [1]

In addition to seasonal impacts, factors like age, health, and environment can influence shedding. Kittens shed their juvenile coats as they mature. Nursing female cats may shed more due to hormonal changes. Stress, poor nutrition, or health conditions may also cause increased shedding.

When does shedding occur?

Shedding in cats is often seasonal and related to age. There are usually two peak shedding seasons per year corresponding with spring and fall. According to PetDirect, kittens don’t shed much until they reach 6-12 months old and transition from their baby coat to adult fur [1]. During these adolescent months, known as the uglies, shedding increases as the soft kitten fur is replaced by thicker adult fur.

In adult cats, shedding is heaviest in the spring and fall months. According to Encore Pet Food, spring shedding helps cats lose their thick winter coat, while fall shedding helps them transition to a warmer winter coat [2]. This seasonal coat change prepares cats for temperature changes between winter and summer.

Signs of normal shedding

Shedding a normal amount of fur is a natural part of a cat’s hair growth cycle. There are several signs that indicate healthy, normal shedding in cats:

Losing hair all over the body in moderate amounts is normal, according to Cat Care of Vinings. Cats shouldn’t be losing hair in patches or going bald in certain areas. Fur should come out evenly across the body.

Healthy shedding shouldn’t cause itching or skin irritation, says Feline Medical Clinic. If a cat is excessively scratching, licking, or biting areas of hair loss, it could signal a skin problem.

Normal shedders will have a glossy, unmatted coat, according to Bond Vet. Their fur should not appear dull or tangled. A shiny coat indicates the hair follicles and skin are healthy.

Tips to manage shedding

There are several things cat owners can do at home to help reduce excessive shedding:

Regular brushing is important to remove loose hair and distribute skin oils. Use a slicker brush or de-shedding tool to penetrate the coat and lift out dead hairs. Brush daily during peak shedding seasons.

Bathing with a moisturizing shampoo can help loosen and remove excess hair. Only bathe cats occasionally, as needed, since overbathing strips oils. Avoid soap and use a gentle cat shampoo.

Dietary supplements like salmon oil and vitamin supplements can improve skin and coat health to reduce shedding. Consult your vet before giving supplements.

Vacuuming frequently collects shed fur before it spreads. Using sticky rollers on furniture also helps pick up loose hair.

Washing bedding weekly in hot water removes embedded fur. Consider using linen or leather furniture and wood floors to reduce hair sticking.

Grooming more often in spring and fall when shedding is heavier can help control hair. Pay extra attention to areas like the stomach during peak shedding.

While shedding can’t be eliminated completely, diligent grooming and managing the environment can reduce the amount of loose hair and dander in the home.

When to see a vet

You should take your cat to the veterinarian if you notice excessive shedding and/or bald patches. According to UK Pets, excessive shedding that leads to bald patches or thinning hair can signal an underlying medical issue. Some potential causes include:

  • Hyperthyroidism – An overactive thyroid gland can cause increased metabolism and excess shedding.
  • Allergies – Allergic reactions to food, fleas, or environmental irritants can trigger overgrooming and hair loss.
  • Skin infections – Bacterial or fungal infections can cause inflammation, irritation, and bald patches.

You should also see your vet if your cat is excessively grooming, licking, or scratching to the point of bald spots and skin damage. This can indicate parasites like fleas or mites, or a skin condition like mange. Lastly, take your cat to the vet if you notice any signs of skin irritation like redness, scabs, sores, or a greasy coat.

The vet will examine your cat and may run tests like bloodwork, skin scrapings, or skin cultures to diagnose the underlying cause of excessive shedding. Based on the diagnosis, the vet can provide medications, medicated shampoos, or other treatments to address the problem.

Health conditions causing shedding

There are several health conditions that can cause increased or excessive shedding in cats:


Allergies, whether to food, fleas, or environmental allergens, can cause inflammation, itching, and hair loss. Cats with allergies often excessively groom themselves, pulling out hair. Treating the underlying allergy can help stop the excessive shedding.


Certain infections, like ringworm, can cause patchy hair loss. Bacterial or fungal infections of the skin can also lead to scaly skin, itching, and shedding. Antifungal or antibiotic treatment is needed to address the infection and stop shedding.

Hormonal imbalances

Issues with thyroid, adrenal, or reproductive hormones can sometimes manifest as increased shedding. Hormone testing and treatment with medication can help restore balance and minimize shedding.

If your cat is experiencing excessive hair loss, it’s important to see your veterinarian for an examination. Testing may be needed to diagnose the underlying cause and determine appropriate treatment. Addressing any medical issue causing shedding is key to getting your cat’s hair regrowth back on track.

Tests for excessive shedding

If a veterinarian suspects an underlying medical condition is causing your cat’s excessive shedding, they may recommend certain tests. These can help diagnose the cause and determine the appropriate treatment.

Tests the vet may perform include:

  • Skin scrapes – The vet takes a sample of skin cells and examines them under a microscope for signs of parasites, infections, and skin disorders like mange. Skin scrapes can identify issues like ringworm fungal infections.
  • Bloodwork – Blood tests can check for abnormalities involving the thyroid, kidneys, liver, and other organs. These conditions can prompt increased shedding.
  • Ultrasound – An ultrasound of the abdomen allows the vet to visualize the internal organs. They can check for masses, inflammation, or other problems that could relate to hair loss.

Your vet will decide which tests are appropriate based on your cat’s symptoms, medical history, and physical exam findings. They’ll interpret the results to reach a diagnosis and map out a treatment plan to address the underlying condition causing shedding.

Treatments for excessive shedding

If your cat is shedding excessively beyond normal seasonal shedding, a vet may prescribe certain treatments. Common treatments include:

Allergy medications – Cats with allergies may overgroom and shed more. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine may reduce inflammation and itchiness. Steroids like prednisone may also help but have more side effects. These medications treat the root allergy causing the excessive grooming and shedding.

Antibiotics – Bacterial or fungal infections can also lead to skin irritation, overgrooming, and increased shedding. Antibiotics prescribed by a vet can treat the infection and allow the skin to heal, reducing excessive shedding.

Supplements – Supplements like fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals support skin and coat health. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements can reduce shedding by nourishing the skin and hair follicles. Vitamin supplements may also contribute to a healthy coat. Always consult a vet before giving supplements.

In addition to medications and supplements prescribed by a vet, good nutrition, grooming, and minimizing stress can help improve excessive shedding. Source: https://uprootclean.com/blogs/cleanspace/home-remedies-for-excessive-cat-shedding

When to rehome excessive shedders

In some cases, excessive shedding can become unmanageable and rehoming the cat may need to be considered. This is usually a last resort when other solutions have failed. The two main reasons for rehoming an excessive shedder are:

  1. Severe allergies in the family – Cat allergies are very common and excessive shedding can exacerbate symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, and difficulty breathing. If allergy medications and rigorous cleaning have not helped, rehoming the cat to a low/no allergy home may be kindest for all.
  2. Inability to manage grooming – Frequent and thorough grooming is essential for heavy shedders. If an owner cannot keep up with the grooming demands, hairballs and mats become likely. Rehoming to an owner able to provide consistent grooming may be better for the cat’s health.

Rehoming a beloved pet is always difficult. Be sure to take time finding the right home that understands the grooming needs. Check references thoroughly. Make the transition gradual with visits. Seek support during this challenging time of saying goodbye.

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