Shedding is usually seasonal, but factors such as diet, genetics and even temperament can all trigger it

If clouds of cat hair don’t complement you, your furniture or your home, you may be among the owners looking for solutions to shedding. There’s a simple two-step prescription to tame it: a brush and a vacuum. Shedding, you see,  is a normal function. But,  if your cat’s shedding appears to be unusually heavy or results in bald spots, make a veterinary appointment to determine if he has an underlying medical condition. High fevers, allergies, the hormonal imbalance hyperthyroidism, pregnancy and parasites like fleas and ticks can cause a cat to shed excessively. In other words, if your cat has shed relatively little until now, there may be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed.

Hair growth in nearly all species occurs in cycles throughout the year:

In the active anagen phase, the hair is hard to pull out, or epilate.

In the telogen phase, hair stops growing and remains in the hair follicle. AT this point, it can often be easily pulled out.

In the photoperiod, or light cycle, the length of daylight triggers changes in shedding. Cats generally will not lose hair in the heat of summer, as you might expect. Instead, they’ll shed in the fall to accommodate thicker hair for winter. They’ll shed that thick hair in the spring.

The season can be a clue if you’re worried that your cat’s shedding is abnormal. If a cat living in the North undergoes a major shed in the summer or the dead of winter, he has a problem. Obviously, the influences for shedding are different in the Northeast or Canada than they are in Florida. In warm weather, the cat doesn’t want a thick dense coat, whereas that type of coat is desirable in cold weather.

The challenge of some indoor cats is that they can shed year-round. Some factors that influence it include the type of lighting in the house, nature of the ambient light outside the house, or whether the owner is a night owl and stays up late into the early morning hours.

Other factors can influence shedding in general:

Lower the Anxiety Level

Hyper-excitable animals tend to shed more than placid ones. During the stress of a veterinary visit, telogen hairs that aren’t anchored into the hair follicle may begin to fall out.  Anxious cats don’t get goose bumps like we do when we experience a chill or a sudden scare, but a cat’s hair follicles can straighten in a process known as piloerection. It’s an erection of the hair due to contraction of the tiny muscles that elevate the hair follicles. A similar process helps form goose bumps in humans. Piloerection loosens the telogen hairs, and some fall out.

Feed a High-quality Diet

Hair is made from the protein keratin. Cats who don’t get adequate animal protein in their diet may experience unusual shedding. Excessive fat in the diet can also cause shedding, but — to confuse things — omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for healthy skin and coat. It’s best to consult your cat’s veterinarian or ask for a referral to a veterinary nutritionist for help in creating a balanced diet.

The Effect of Genetics

Short-haired breeds such as Siamese and Tonkinese are among breeds who tend to shed the least. On the other hand, the Himalayan, Persian, and Maine Coon shed a great deal. Piloerection is self-perpetuating in these high-shed cats. When the hair follicle is empty, the hair bulb receives a signal to start growing hair, so a very highly nervous cat is constantly supplied with new hair to shed. Despite popular belief, non-shedding cats don’t exist. Some breeds do have a different hair cycle than other breeds, so shedding may not be as obvious, but it still does occur.