Do Cats Shed More When Stressed?

Anyone handling cats will be fully aware of the extent to which cats are shedding hair at present. This natural process makes the cat better adapted to withstand the hot months of summer. Veterinarians are commonly called upon to treat various ailments of cats associated with this shedding of fur.

Do cats shed when stressed?

In short: yes they do!

If your cat is shedding during a stressful time, please do not think it is abnormal or something to worry about. It is just nature taking its course and should not be taken as a sign of illness.

Cats have a unique ability to be able to “shed” when stressed because of the combination of their skin anatomy, hair physiology, and grooming behavior. Since there are multiple layers of skin, a cat can “shrug” just the outermost layer, with all the hair intact underneath.

If your cat begins to lose fur in large clumps or in round balls, this may be cause for concern and could be a sign of infestation by parasites such as mites or fleas and requires immediate attention by your vet.

In addition to all this, most cats groom themselves on a regular basis and consume their own shed hair along with any dander.

Takeaway: Your vet will be able to determine what’s causing him stress and provide treatment accordingly. But in most cases, it’ll be something common like a flea infestation, a hormonal imbalance, or even high temperatures that cause your cat to bare its teeth and lose hair at an alarming rate.

Sore throat and cough

The common ailment is a suddenly developing sore throat and cough. The cat suddenly refuses to eat but may still lap water or milk. It tends to sit huddled and reluctant to move and any attempt at exertion is usually accompanied by a low cough and obvious discomfort.

On examination, the tissues of the throat and tonsils appear swollen and red and the opening of the larynx may be severely swollen and inflamed.

In the process of grooming itself the cat accumulates hair on its tongue. In attempting to swallow large amounts of hair, the tissues of the pharynx are irritated and susceptible to secondary infection from the many bacteria and viruses normally present in the mouth cavity.

Treatment with antibiotics is necessary, as the cat may have an elevated temperature and there is some risk that the infection may spread to the chest and cause pneumonia.

Usually, injections are administered followed by antibiotics in liquid form as the cat may resent attempts to administer tablets. Anti-inflammatory drugs are also usually prescribed to reduce the painful inflammation of the throat and relieve coughing.

Where the cat has completely refused to eat for some days, feeding with intravenous fluids may also be considered.

Intestinal upsets

Another common ailment is associated with large amounts of fur accumulating in the intestinal tract. These furballs can cause a variety of symptoms. Most commonly the cat solves the problem unaided by eating large amounts of grass and regurgitating the resultant mixture of undigested grass and fur.

The accumulation of large amounts of fur in the stomach should be suspected if the cat is lethargic, reluctant to eat, and sits huddled with its eyes half-closed.

Intestinal upsets are frequently caused by hairs entering the intestinal tract. The constant irritation of the intestinal wall may cause a bowel infection and diarrhea follows. More commonly, the intestinal tract is unable to force large accumulations of hair through its entire length and constipation results.

During the molting season, it is wise to give some form of laxative to aid the passage of the fur through the intestinal tract. Liquid paraffin is the most economical remedy and a teaspoon given twice weekly is usually sufficient. Do not give more frequently as the heavy oil coats the lining of the bowel and may interfere with the intake of certain essential vitamins.

Most cats will take the oil quite freely from a spoon or a dropper or the oil may be placed over their food. Some owners have difficulty administering the regular dose of the oil as the cat objects violently to any enforced dosing.

In these cases, there is a risk of the oil finding its way down the windpipe and causing serious respiratory disease. There is a preparation available in the form of a palatable paste which most cats will freely lick from the tube when smeared on their lips or paws.

Cod liver oil or vegetable oils are not effective as laxatives as they are broken down in the intestinal tract before reaching the accumulated hair in the large intestine.

What can I do about my cat shedding?

Regular brushing of short-haired cats with a short-bristled brush or rubber glove helps to remove loose hair and shortens the molting season. Long-haired cats require combing every day with a fine-toothed comb.

Failure to remove the shed hair each day leads to the accumulation of knots and areas where the hair felts into a solid mass. Attempts to remove these are usually strongly resented and the animal must be sedated before grooming is possible. Cats often hunt in the long grass at this time of the year and the accumulation of grass seeds exacerbates the problem.

Is there a cat food that helps with shedding?

You’d think that food labeled as ‘complete and balanced’ would generally be safe to feed your cat. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Certain food ingredients have been shown to cause either allergic reactions, vomiting, or in some cases, increased shedding. Then check these recommendations for the best cat food to help with shedding.

  1. Royal Canin Hairball Care
  2. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food, Adult, Urinary & Hairball Control, Chicken Recipe
  3. Purina ONE Hairball Formula Adult Dry Cat Food
  4. Purina Cat Chow Hairball, Healthy Weight, Indoor, Natural Dry Cat Food, Naturals Indoor
  5. Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control & Weight Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, Chicken & Brown Rice
  6. IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Indoor Weight & Hairball Care Dry Cat Food, Chicken & Salmon Recipes
  7. Meow Mix Hairball Control Dry Cat Food
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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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