Q: My cat Cupcake sheds profusely. Is he normal?
A: As many as 60,000 to 120,000 hairs adorn every square inch of a cat's skin, and many are in the process of being released at a given time. Outdoor cats shed heavily during the spring and fall in response to changes in temperature and daylight. If Cupcake lives indoors, he likely sheds throughout the year because temperature and lighting are consistent.
It's not uncommon for cats to shed profusely when they're stressed, like when they ride in the car to the animal hospital or someone new visits the home.
The most common reasons for a pet to lose so much hair that the skin shows through are fleas and other parasites; ringworm and other fungal infections; bacterial infections; and hormonal imbalances. Fleas irritate cats and bite people, and ringworm is contagious to pet and human family members, so contact your veterinarian if Cupcake develops any bald patches. Otherwise, brush him regularly to remove any loose hairs before they're deposited on your clothes and furniture.
As long as Cupcake has no thin or bald spots, his shedding is probably normal. If his coat gets sparse or loses its luster, or you see redness or debris on the skin or hair, it's time for a veterinary exam.
Editor’s Note: Detecting health problems in cats can be difficult, and the quality of their fur could be key to assessing their wellness. Here’s a list of fur conditions that may signal health problems in cats.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at email@example.com.