Cats can be sleek and elegant or fluff-balls with so much fur you are not sure which end you are looking at. Stroking them can provide relief from stress, calm you down and help center your mind. The problem, though, is that with these beautiful coats, there also comes a lot of shedding of hair.
Foods that help diminish shedding in cats focus on improving skin condition. Healthy skin promotes a healthy coat. Cat hair in good condition does not break or become loose in the hair follicle, which reduces shedding. Food should include vitamins and minerals to improve skin health.
This article will look at what is necessary for a cat to have a healthy skin and coat. We will examine cat foods on the market that meet these requirements and look at issues that can worsen hair loss or shedding.
Why Do Cats Shed?
Cats shed to get rid of worn-out, broken, or damaged hair to make way for new hair growth. Generally, cats have a heavy shed twice a year when the seasons change and the weather warms or cools. These seasonal sheds allow the cat to have the appropriate coat to keep them warm in winter or cool in summer.
Why Does Your Cat Need A Healthy Skin For A Healthy Coat?
Everyone always speaks about the need for a healthy skin to improve coat quality and reduce shedding in cats. Not many people understand how the skin and hair interact and why a healthy skin is so important.
What Is Cat Hair Made Of?
Cat hair is made up of keratin which is a fibrous protein. Keratin is also used to make nails, horns, tusks, and scales. It is found in many different species besides cats. Keratin makes up most of the cells of the epithelium (the outer layer of skin cells). It improves the skin quality, making it mostly waterproof and enhancing the structure.
Keratin is a tough substance – so tough that even a cat’s powerful stomach acids cannot digest it. The resilience of keratin is why cats have to regurgitate hairballs. They cannot digest the keratin, and the hair collects into balls in the stomach. Two nutrients, vitamin A and biotin, are essential for the production of keratin.
Cat hair consists of a shaft and root section. The root expands into a bulb encased in a follicle (sac) situated under the dermis. (The dermis is a layer of tissue just below the epidermis). The hair has three layers with multiple cells in each layer.
Sebaceous glands are located next to the hair follicles. They secrete a thick substance known as sebum that is spread on the shaft of the hair. Sebum allows the cat’s coat to shine and protects the cat from harmful toxins entering through the skin.
What Nutrients Are Necessary For A Cat’s Skin?
As you can see, a cat’s hair relies on its skin to anchor the hair, allow it to grow and nourish it. To maintain a healthy skin, a cat needs to eat a balanced, biologically appropriate diet where the nutrients are digestible and accessible.
Cats need high protein levels to produce keratin, collagen, and elastin to maintain healthy skin and hair. Essential fatty acids such as may be found in omega 3 and omega 6 are necessary to maintain the integrity of the skin. Cats are unable to synthesize these fatty acids and so they must be included in the diet.
The following vitamins are vital for a cat’s skin and coat:
- Vitamin A regulates cell growth
- Vitamin B is critical in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant critical for the excretion of toxins, maintenance of the cat’s immune system, and control of inflammation.
- Biotin, which is sometimes called Vitamin H or Vitamin B7, stimulates the production of keratin and hair growth.
What Trace Minerals Are Important For Skin And Health?
Zinc is a trace mineral necessary for the growth, maintenance, and replacement of all cells in the body, including the skin and hair. Copper, which is only needed in tiny quantities, helps form hair structure and maintains hair color. Cat foods should include these nutrients if they are to help reduce shedding.
What Cat Foods Help Prevent Shedding?
Some foods are not explicitly marketed at improving hair condition or reducing shedding. Nevertheless, they provide a well-balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients. These diets will be mentioned together with those that are specifically aimed at skin and coat health.
1. Royal Canin Feline Hair & Skin Care Cat Food includes vitamin B, essential proteins, and omega oils. The protein content is limited to a single protein to ease digestion and reduce the occurrence of allergies which could affect the skin.
2. Royal Canin Prescription Diet Hypoallergenic has essential fatty acids and hydrolyzed proteins to aid digestion and prevent allergies. A criticism that may be leveled at this food is that the protein level is not as high as it should be, and soy, a plant-based fatty protein, is included. Soy is not digested as easily as an animal fat protein.
3. Purina One Hairball Formula target hairballs by including fiber which can ‘collect’ the hairs and facilitate their excretion. It also targets the improvement of the coat condition to minimize hair loss. It includes fruit and vegetables to boost vitamins and minerals. This food also contains grains which may not be an issue if your cat is not allergic to them. Some cats are sensitive to grains, so be aware that this could potentially cause allergies.
5. Hills Science Diet Adult Hairball Control is a food that also aims to deal with the problem of hairballs by using fiber. It includes antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that improve the skin condition. In addition, it is aimed at reducing weight as many cats that are obese also have skin and coat problems. The calorie count is lower for each meal than most cat foods that aim to reduce shedding.
5. Taste Of The Wild Cat Food has high levels of omega 3 and omega 6 to improve coat condition. Many cat owners report good results from using this food to reduce shedding.
This food is good for sensitive cats as it uses novel proteins and is grain-free. Proteins include salmon, venison, and trout. Vegetables are added to provide carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. There are both dry kibble and wet canned food formulas.
6. American Journey Grain-Free Cat Food uses fruit, vegetables, and naturally grown proteins, including turkey, duck, salmon, and chicken. The salmon flavored food is especially useful for cats with coat and hair problems as it has much higher levels of omega oils.
7. Blue Buffalo Hairball Control has a high protein content. It does not include any fillers which could spark allergic reactions or decrease digestibility.
8. Avoderm Wild By Nature Cat Food is a wet cat food that uses wild-caught salmon and does not include grains of any kind. It is hypoallergenic and helps to promote coat health and reduce shedding.
9. Nom Nom is a company that provides home-cooked style wet cat foods. The food is grain-free, uses high-quality proteins, and is renowned for assisting cats with allergies. Its high nutrition levels combat hair fall and promote skin health. Nom Nom is regularly voted as the best cat food on several different forums.
10. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Hairball Control Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food removes hairballs with fiber from brown rice and other sources. It also provides a complete, balanced diet to facilitate the health of all systems in the cat’s body. This food is well priced, so for those that cannot pay fortunes for cat food, give Nutro Wholesome a trial run.
11. Smalls Food for Cats has gained popularity with cat lovers. This all-natural cat food does not include flavorants, colorants, grains, or fillers. Human grade protein is used to create either a portion of minced fresh cat food or it is freeze-dried to form crunchy bites of high-quality protein. Smalls can be contacted to discuss special requirements for your cat. This food is well balanced and ideal for improving a cat’s health and reducing shedding.
12. The Cat Person Cat Food is a food that utilizes dehydrated protein to provide cats with kibble that is very high in proteins. There is no corn, soy, gluten, wheat, or potato. Peas and pea protein provide carbohydrates and fiber. The food has added Vitamin A, B, C, and K, enhancing the skin and coat condition.
Flavors include duck, turkey, chicken, tuna, mackerel, bream, and salmon. Fish flavors include additional omega oils. The food also comes in a wet form either as a paté or as shredded pieces in a broth.
- I and Love and You Cat Food have two types of food: Naked essentials and Nude cat food. Their food includes a high percentage of protein from sources such as chicken, duck, trout, and salmon.
The nude food has an even higher protein content and includes flaxseeds, coconut, and cranberries. These ingredients nourish the skin and coat, while prebiotics and probiotics add to the general health of your cat. The foods are available in dry or wet form.
14. Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Cat Food is top-rated by many cat owners. It has ninety-five percent protein and excludes grains and all gluten. The food includes omega oils, offering a choice of chicken and salmon flavors. The protein quality is of an extremely high standard. This factor makes it a palatable and highly nutritious diet for cats that would go a long way to reducing hair fall in cats.
15. Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Cat Food has a pacific catch flavor which includes raw wild-caught salmon as the major protein source. Salmon is rich in omega oils and other fatty acids that promote skin and coat health. The protein is freeze-dried, and there are no grains or gluten in the diet.
16. Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free offers wet food in two different size portions allowing you to choose based on how much your cat eats per meal. There are no grains or fillers. The protein consists of chicken, turkey, and chicken livers and constitutes ninety-five percent of the diet. This proportion of ingredients is biologically appropriate for cats and, as such, promotes health in all body systems.
Other flavors include beef, venison, lamb, duck, rabbit, and salmon. The protein source includes muscle meat and organ meat which are vital for maintaining good health.
17. Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free Paté is a wet canned food that does not include any meat by-products, only high-grade meat. There are no fillers, artificial flavorants, or colorants. It contains carrots, cranberries, and flax seeds to provide all the required vitamins, minerals, and omega oils.
18. Diamond Premium Recipe Maintenance is a cheaper cat food that helps reduce shedding. It contains thirty percent protein and fifteen percent fat which is adequate for moderately active indoor cats. It includes wheat and corn, which could be a problem for cats with allergies and food intolerances.
19. Diamond Naturals High Protein Cat Food offers a much higher protein content combined with fruit and vegetables. Fillers, wheat, and corn are excluded from the food. The diet provides all the necessary minerals and vitamins to promote health and reduce hair loss.
20. Primal Freeze Nugget Dry Cat Food is available in salmon or chicken. The salmon is naturally caught or raised. Chickens are sourced from farms where antibiotics and hormones are not fed to the chickens. The raw protein is freeze-dried to preserve the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Freeze-drying creates crunchy food, which some cats prefer.
How Do I Know If My Cat Has Normal Shedding Or Too Much Shedding?
Generally, cats have a heavy shedding period in late fall or early winter and again in spring. In between that, there is some shedding, but this is much less. If your cat has heavy shedding throughout the year, there could be a problem. You will always have some shedding, and you need to accept it as part of owning a cat.
Often cats that are shedding abnormally will have other signs as well. This could include:
- A thin patchy coat with some areas that may even look bald.
- The cat may scratch and bite at his skin frequently.
- Your cat will groom himself excessively and may suffer from hairballs.
- The cat’s coat will look dull, and the hair may appear to be broken in some areas.
- The cat may be restless and generally seem uncomfortable.
What Factors Cause Shedding In Cats?
Several factors can result in increased shedding. They vary and can change over different life stages.
- Stress can cause shedding.
- Poor nutrition is one of the most significant causes of shedding in cats. Cats’ nutritional needs change as they change life stages. It is important to adjust a cat’s diet to the changing needs.
- Hormonal changes
- Various diseases and conditions can cause hair loss and shedding.
- Obese cats.
Why Do Cats Shed When They Are Stressed?
Arrector muscles are attached to hair follicles and allow the cat’s hair to stand up. When a cat is stressed, the arrector pili muscles are activated for long periods. The hairs in the telogen (resting) stage of hair growth are loosened and fall out. Cats can become stressed for a number of reasons:
- Changes in the home environment. Sometimes even new furniture can cause stress.
- New animals or humans in the home.
- Visits to the veterinarian.
- Grooming by strangers or even grooming by their owner if the cat is unused to grooming.
- Pain and illness can also cause stress.
My Old Cat Sheds A Lot – What Could Be Wrong?
Older cats are more prone to shedding simply because they are aging. As cats age, their skin loses its elasticity and condition. Their coats become drier, and the skin is more prone to flaking or dandruff. The older cat may suffer from arthritis which reduces his ability to groom himself adequately. All these factors contribute to hair loss and piles of hair left wherever your cat has been resting.
My Pregnant Cat Is Losing Hair – Help!
Hormonal changes are a common cause of increased shedding in cats. Hair quality and growth rates are affected by fluctuating hormones. Pregnancy is one of the most obvious times that hormones change significantly. During pregnancy, growth hormones are active, which can cause an increase in the hair growth rate, which will result in more shedding.
Sterilizing either a male or female cat will cause a sudden and significant hormonal change which may temporarily affect their coats and increase shedding. Some diseases such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism change hormones and result in poor skin condition and increased fall of hair.
Why Does Obesity Cause Excessive Shedding?
Obese cats have difficulty grooming themselves as they cannot reach all areas of their body adequately. These areas of the body build up dirt, loose hair, and debris such as grass seeds. The build-up in the ungroomed regions causes the skin to deteriorate, and the hair loosens and falls out.
Obese cats are prone to diseases such as diabetes, heart complications, hypertension, and cancer that can all compromise skin and therefore coat health. The result is an increase in shedding. Obese cats will be more likely to develop arthritis which makes self-grooming painful. The cat will become less and less likely to groom and spread the sebum along the hairs. The hairs will decrease in condition and die or loosen.
What Is Over-Grooming And Why Is it A Problem.
Over-grooming occurs when the cat grooms itself obsessively. This is a behavioral problem that can arise from several sources.
Boredom and stress from under-stimulation or separation anxiety can cause over-grooming. The cat has nothing to do and begins to groom as a way to soothe himself. This is self-rewarding and quickly becomes a habit. Eventually, the coat thins as too much hair is loosened and falls out.
Skin allergies and parasites both cause intense itching. To relieve the irritation, the cat grooms itself. Sometimes even once the underlying problem is resolved, the habit may continue. Breaking the habit of over-grooming is complex and may require the help of an animal behaviorist.
Usually, therapy consists of distraction when the cat begins to groom itself. The environment may be changed to include more stimulation.
Can Parasites Cause Shedding?
External parasites such as ticks, fleas, and lice cause intense itching where they bite the cat. Cats may also be allergic to the saliva and feces of these pests. If your cat is constantly scratching or grooming, you should carefully examine under the coat hairs to look for evidence of parasites. The hairs will become broken and damaged from the scratching, which will prompt shedding.
Internal parasites such as intestinal worms can also cause shedding. Most of us feel squeamish about the thought of intestinal worms, but they need to be dealt with. They can significantly suppress a cat’s health resulting in poor coat and skin health. Some worms come out of the anus and then go back in again, and this causes itching around the back end of the cat.
Tapeworms have segments that are passed out of the anus that also causes itching. Any itching can increase shedding.
Do Certain Cat Breeds Shed More Than Others?
Just like dogs, some cat breeds are heavy shedders. Here is a list of some cats that shed more than others:
- Ragdoll cats
- Ragamuffin cats
- American bobtail cats
- American curl cats
- Norwegian Forest cats
- Maine coon cats
- Siberian cats
- Russian Blue cats
Some cats shed very little:
- Cornish Rex cats
- Devon Rex cats
- Sphynx cats
- Burmese cats
- Siamese cats
How Else Can Cat Shedding be Controlled?
Some things can be done to manage cat hair in the home.
- Grooming your cat regularly will help to loosen hair that is ready to fall. The hair will be collected in the brush, which will prevent it from being distributed all over the house.
- Grooming is a good way for you to bond with your cat. Choose brushes that are appropriate for the length of your cat’s hair. There is a wide variety of pet hair brushes on the market, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. The primary aim is to remove hair in a way that is pleasurable for the cat, so avoid brushes that hurt.
- Some owners prefer to have their cats professionally groomed once or twice a month. This may be helpful with some cats if they have a more laid-back personality. For other cats, it may be counter-productive, as taking the cat to the groomers where a stranger grooms him may make him more prone to shedding from stress.
- Although cats don’t often enjoy the water, it is helpful to wash your cat periodically. The water loosens the hair and makes it easier to remove all the loose hair.
- Ensure the cat is well-hydrated as dehydration can cause shedding. Wet foods are better for cats who do not drink much as they contain a high moisture percentage.
- Take your cat for a health check if your cat continues to shed excessively.
- Teach your cat to lie on specific blankets on the sofa or bed so that your furniture does not become covered in cat hair.
- Some vacuum cleaners are adjusted to sucking up pet hair. A good vacuum cleaner can save you a lot of cleaning time.
Cat foods that prevent shedding are high in digestible proteins and contain good levels of fat. Carbohydrates can irritate the gut and cause inflammation in the skin. Grains containing gluten, soy, and corn are particularly problematic for cats with sensitive systems. If the cat is prone to allergies, food that has a single source of protein and does not contain any fillers is best.
Essential fatty acids in omega oils and vitamins A, B, and E are vital for good skin and coat health. Essential trace minerals especially zinc and copper are needed in small quantities. Still, they are nevertheless crucial for a shiny coat and vibrant skin. Keep your cat free of parasites to prevent irritation. Your cat will always shed some hair, but a lot can be done to lessen it and manage the hair that does fall.