Cat shedding a lot is concerning and requires veterinary attention. A cat shedding its hair is a normal process and part of the hair growth cycle, but when the shredding is excessive, it signals a problem. 

Cat shedding is affected by many factors, including breed, age, and whether the cat lives indoors or outdoors. Outdoor cats shed twice a year in the spring and fall. Indoor cats shed hair continuously throughout the year. 

Excessive shedding warrants a trip to the vet since many health conditions affect coat quality and cause changes in shedding and grooming habits. Skin infections, parasites, allergies, hormonal imbalances, metabolic stress, and behavioral issues like anxiety and cat depression are the leading causes of excessive shedding in cats. 

See the veterinarian if the cat is shedding more than usual or out of season. The treatment for excessive shedding in cats depends on the underlying cause. 

Maintain skin and coat health and reduce cat shedding problems by providing a healthy diet, promoting hydration, and being diligent regarding the cat’s grooming routine, including daily brushing and occasional bathing. 

Skin and coat supplements help cats that shred a lot. The two best products for skin and coat health in cats are full-spectrum CBD oils and omega-rich fish oils.  CBD is safe for cats, and CBD oils help manage cat shredding by promoting skin health, managing the depression that causes shredding, and reducing inflammation, which is an underlying cause of cat shredding a lot.

Why Is My Cat Shedding so Much?

Your cat is shedding so much due to seasonal changes, regular hair growth cycles, or health issues and diseases. 

The cat’s hair has a four-stage growth cycle and typically sheds daily. Cats have pronounced hair-shedding phases twice yearly, typically in spring and fall. 

A cat shedding a lot and hair loss “can be caused by self-inflicted factors like allergies or ectoparasite infestation, or spontaneous factors like infection, ectoparasites, immune-mediated disease, or neoplasia,” according to the study by Paterson S., titled “The Investigation of Feline Alopecia,” 2016.

Understanding the cat shedding a lot issue requires learning the basics of cat hair and coat, the hair cycles, types of coat, and purposes. 

Hair is the individual strands that comprise the fur, while fur is the densely packed hair. The cat’s fur is called the fur coat or hair coat; however, the terms are used interchangeably. 

Cats have multiple hair layers making up the coat, and the number, length, coarseness, and straightness of hairs vary among breeds. The hair layers have various functions, such as insulation, protection, and waterproofing. 

Shedding is a normal process in which dead hair is removed and natural oils are released into the skin. Dead hair in cats is removed through brushing or shedding. Unremoved dead hair causes skin irritation and impairs new hair growth in cats. 

Is It Normal for My Cat to Shed This Much?

Yes, it is normal for cats to shed. Outdoor cats shed intensely twice a year during shedding seasons in spring and fall, while indoor cats shed moderately year-round. Excessive shedding, however, is not normal and requires attention. 

Cats have shedding cycles, and all cats shed differently, some lose a lot of hair, and others slough off only small amounts of hair. 

The hair growth cycle in cats has four stages, including anagen, catagen, telogen, and ecogen. Anagen is when cat hair grows quickly. Catagen is where the hair reaches full length and stops growing. Telogen is where the cat’s hair neither grows nor falls. Ecogen is intense cat hair shedding or falling off for new hair growth. 

The typical amount of shedding varies among cats, and it is hard to determine what is normal. A cat shedding hair to the point of coat thinning is concerning. 

Is Cat Depression One of the Cause for Excessive Shedding?

Yes, cat depression is one of the causes of excessive shedding. Cat depression affects the cat’s grooming habits, which results in losing too much hair. 

Depressed cats do not maintain their self-grooming habits, which causes poor skin health and an unkempt coat appearance. The long-term effects of not grooming are excess shedding and hair loss. 

Depression is a serious mental health issue and, while not life-threatening on its own, harms the cat’s quality of life. Cat depression is defined as a chronic low-mood state or a persistent feeling of sadness. 

A depressed cat shedding a lot requires proper attention to manage the depression problem and the excess hair loss. 

How Can I Tell If My Cat’s Shedding Is a Sign of Illness?

You can tell if your cat’s shedding is a sign of illness if the hair loss is accompanied by other worrisome signs and symptoms. The best way to determine the cause of the excess shedding is to have the cat shedding a lot examined by a licensed veterinarian. 

Changes in shedding and grooming habits are concerning, and a cat is shedding more than usual warrants a trip to the vet’s office. Cats hide signs of illness very well, and even subtle behavioral changes indicate underlying problems in cats. 

Obvious shedding-related issues, such as excessive mats, bald patches, or skin irritation, require immediate veterinary attention and must be addressed to avoid progressing into more severe conditions.  

What Are the Common Causes of Increased Shedding in Cats?

The common causes of increased shedding in cats are listed below. 

  • Hereditary Hypotrichosis: Hereditary hypotrichosis is a rare congenital condition where a kitten is born bald or has a thin coat of hair that falls out over time. Greasy skin and crusting due to secondary trauma caused by the mother’s tongue are common in kittens with hypotrichosis. A skin biopsy shows markedly atrophic or absent hair follicles. The condition is reported in certain breeds, including the Siamese, Birman, Devon Rex, and Burmese cats.  
  • Follicular Dysplasia: Follicular dysplasia is a genetic disease causing increased shedding and alopecia. Cats with follicular dysplasia have malfunctioning hair follicles that fail to produce healthy hairs. Kittens suffering from follicular dysplasia are born with a normal, full coat that sheds profusely and thins over time. Follicular dysplasia is predominant in Cornish Rex cats. 
  • Poor Diet: A cat shedding a lot is caused by low-quality food lacking essential nutrients. A poor diet affects skin and coat health, causing excess shedding. Cats require a complete and balanced diet suitable for their specific lifestyle and age. The most important nutrients for preventing shedding issues are protein and fat. Cats that overeat develop obesity, and obese cats have trouble grooming, resulting in a cat shedding a lot.   
  • Old Age: Senior cats experience increased shedding due to two main causes: arthritis and feline cognitive dysfunction. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and is very painful. The pain prevents the cat from bending and properly grooming itself causing excess shredding. Feline cognitive dysfunction is the cat equivalent to Alzheimer’s disease, and cats with the condition have poor grooming habits due to confusion and forgetfulness. 
  • Skin Infections: Skin infections in cats are a common cause of increased shedding. Infections are caused by bacteria (Staphylococcus members), yeasts (Malassezia members), ringworms, or parasites (mites, mange, and fleas). Skin infections result in redness, inflammation, and itchiness. The itchiness aggravates the situation and contributes to hair breaking and a cat shedding a lot. Skin disorders affect 6 to 15% of cats, according to The Cornell Feline Health Center. 
  • Allergies: Allergies cause skin inflammation and itchiness in cats, resulting in hair loss and increased shedding. An allergy is an immune system overreaction or hypersensitivity to substances called allergens. The cat’s immune system misidentifies the substance as a threat and triggers a severe reaction against the allergen. Cats are allergic to allergens found in food, environment, or in flea saliva. 
  • Endocrine Problems: Endocrine problems refer to cat hormonal imbalances. Increased shedding is typically associated with two issues: hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism. Cushing’s disease is very rare in cats, but hyperthyroidism is widespread. Hyperthyroidism is marked by an overly active thyroid gland and excess thyroid hormones, resulting in increased appetite, water intake, urination, and weight loss. Old age and eating canned food are risk factors for cat hyperthyroidism and was documented in the study titled, “Prevalence of and risk factors for feline hyperthyroidism in South Africa,” 2017. 
  • Metabolic Stress: Metabolic stress, typically caused by pregnancy, nursing, or fever, causes increased cat shedding. Metabolic stress is not limited to mothering and high body temperature and is, in some cases, caused by kidney problems or liver disease. A cat shedding a lot due to recent metabolic stress must be thoroughly examined for more severe and systemic conditions. 
  • Behavioral Issues: Anxiety and depression are common behavioral problems in cats, resulting in excessive shedding. Anxious cats are prone to compulsive activities and often indulge in overgrooming. Depressed cats are disinterested in grooming. Excess and lack of grooming affect hair quality and cause increased shedding. 
  • Cancer: Cancer is an indirect cause of increased shedding in cats. Tumors attack and trigger the cat’s immune system, resulting in atypical symptoms, collectively called paraneoplastic syndrome. Shedding is part of the paraneoplastic syndrome in some cases. “Paraneoplastic alopecia in cats is able to be linked to hepatocellular carcinoma,” was the conclusion of a study on a 15-year-old spayed female domestic shorthair cat titled “Paraneoplastic Alopecia Associated with Hepatocellular Carcinoma in a Cat,” 2007.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Cat’s Shedding?

You should be concerned about your cat’s shedding if it is more pronounced than usual, out of season, or accompanied by other signs of disease. 

Excessive shedding in cats is a serious and common issue. VCA Animal Hospitals say that 25% of all cat veterinary visits involve skin and coat problems, including excessive shedding issues.  

Schedule a vet visit if dealing with excess hair loss. A cat shedding a lot is not an emergency but requires prompt and professional veterinary attention.  

The general veterinary practitioner takes the cat’s thorough history and performs a full body physical examination. A cat shedding a lot is referred to a veterinary dermatologist for a more detailed assessment if necessary.

Could My Cat’s Diet Affect Their Shedding?

Yes, your cat’s diet affects its shedding significantly. Nutrition is key to maintaining cat skin and coat health and preventing excessive shedding. 

A cat shedding a lot is often caused by low-quality food lacking essential nutrients. A cat’s skin and coat need ample nutrients to stay healthy and shiny. Nutritionally imbalanced foods make the cat’s coat prone to breaking and falling off easily. The coat appears unkempt and feels rough to the touch. 

Zinc deficiency is able to trigger excessive shedding in cats, according to a paper published in Comparative Clinical Pathology, titled “The Possible Role of Zinc in Excessive Shedding of Hair in Two Persian Cats,” 2012.

Providing the cat with a quality and balanced diet ensures proper coat wellness and prevents shedding problems. The two nutrients essential for cat hair health are animal-based protein and fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 

What Are the Best Ways to Reduce My Cat’s Shedding?

The best ways to reduce your cat’s shedding are listed below. 

  • Regular Brushing: Regular brushing, preferably daily, is essential for managing a cat shedding a lot. Brushing helps remove loose hairs from the coat’s deep and superficial layers. Brushing massages the cat’s skin, improves circulation, and distributes skin oils, which promote healthy skin and indirectly affect coat wellness and shedding. 
  • Occasional Baths: Bathing helps loosen hair while shedding and removes dead hair. Brush the cat thoroughly before bathing, and use a mild, moisturizing, and cat-friendly shampoo for the bath. Massage the shampoo gently into the cat’s coat using the fingertips to dislodge loose hair, then rinse the cat several times to ensure no shampoo is left over. 
  • Balanced Cat Food: Give the cat a high-quality, complete, and nutritionally balanced diet to reduce cat shedding. Protein and omega fatty acids are the two most important nutrients for cat skin and coat health. The protein must be derived from animals, and the best omega source is fish oil. 
  • Skin and Coat Supplements: The pet market offers skin and coat supplements formulated specifically for cats. Find a supplement the cat likes and is easy to use daily. Consult the veterinarian if unsure which supplement is best for the cat’s needs and how to use the product. 
  • Healthy Hydration: Cats need healthy water for skin and coat health and reduced shedding. Cats are not very keen drinkers, and it is essential to encourage healthy water intake. Keep cat water bowls clean and filled with fresh drinking water. Get a water fountain to encourage drinking since most cats prefer running water. 
  • Stress Control: Create a stress-free environment to reduce shedding in cats. Provide enrichment activities and plenty of physical and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and keep the cat engaged in positive activities. Use cat calming supplements to manage severely anxious cats prone to anxiety about triggers that are hard to eliminate or manage. 

Are There Any Breeds of Cats That Shed Less?

Yes, there are breeds of cats that shed less. Cat breeds that shed less include the Sphynx, the Cornish Rex, the Devon Rex, the Peterbald, the Bengal, the Donskoy, the Bombay, the British Shorthair, the Siamese, and the LaPerm. 

Hairless, nearly hairless, and short-haired cat breeds tend to shed less, especially when regularly and properly groomed. A hairless or short-haired cat shedding a lot is a cause for concern and requires veterinary care. 

Low-shedding cats are often mistaken for being hypoallergenic. Cats produce proteins, from Fel d 1 to Fel d 7, known allergens and trigger reactions in sensitive people. The Fel d proteins are found in the cat’s dander, urine, and saliva. 

A low-shedding cat disperses less allergenic dander but still has Fel d proteins in the urine and saliva. Cat breeds that shed less are not hypoallergenic. 

How Does Seasonal Change Impact Cat Shedding?

Seasonal change impacts cat shredding because the shredding increases or decreases based on the season. Sunlight and environmental temperature significantly affect hair growth and result in a cat shedding a lot of issues in some cases. 

Outdoor cats shed once or twice a year, typically in spring and fall. Cats shed their winter coats in spring to prepare for warmer weather. Cat sheds the summer coat in the fall to make room for the winter undercoat. 

Cat coat length varies. The“outer coat and undercoat length vary from 25 mm and 12 mm in summer to 30 mm and 15 mm in winter,”according to an observational study titled “Seasonal Changes in the Coat of the Cat” 1975, published in the Research in Veterinary Science. The study included four cats whose coats were monitored for 20 months over several seasons. 

Indoor cats spend time in controlled conditions and are not heavily impacted by sunlight and temperature. Strictly indoor cats shed continuously but moderately throughout the year.

Can CBD Oil Help Manage Cat’s Excessive Shedding?

Yes, CBD oil can help manage a cat’s excessive shedding. Pet CBD is a relatively new product in the pet market and a novel treatment for excessive shedding in cats. 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a health-boosting and naturally occurring compound found in Cannabis sativa, primarily in the hemp version of the cannabis plant. CBD is one of over 113 cannabinoids and comprises 40% of the plant’s extract. 

Cannabidiol or CBD is safe to use in cats and is non-psychogenic and non-addictive, and cats do not overdose on hemp-sourced CBD products. 

CBD oil is the most popular cannabidiol-based product for cats, but CBD treats and topical CBD balms are excellent for skin and coat health and managing a cat shedding a lot. 

CBD works through the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a regulatory system responsible for maintaining health and balance. Cats have thin skin layers with many endocannabinoid receptors, which help boost the CBD benefits.  CBD oil for cats helps with shedding on several levels. 

CBD supports the production of specific cat fat molecules that moisturize and protect the skin, promoting skin and coat health. CBD is rich in essential omega fatty acids vital for healthy skin and shiny coat in felines. 

CBD has strong anti-inflammatory properties and inflammation is the foundation of many skin problems, resulting in a cat shredding a lot. The reduced inflammation, combined with cannabidiol’s anti-pruritic effect, decreases itchiness, reducing hair loss and shedding.  

Cannabidiol is excellent for managing anxious and depressed cats. Cat anxiety and depression contribute to shedding by altering the cat’s grooming habits. CBD promotes a healthy appetite, and balanced nutrition is essential for optimal skin and coat health.   

CBD for cats is safe to combine with many mainstream treatments and medications. Talk to a veterinarian before using CBD for a cat shredding a lot to determine the best product and CBD dosage. 

Is CBD Safe for Cat Treatment?

Yes, CBD is safe for cat treatment. CBD is an excellent complementary treatment for excessive shedding in cats and is safe to combine with traditional therapies. 

Hemp-sourced, THC-free CBD, made exclusively for cats, is safe when used responsibly, in the recommended doses, with the veterinarian’s approval, and as directed by the manufacturer. 

PetMD says that “CBD itself appears, on the surface, to be very safe in cats” based on reports by pet parents and veterinarians. 

CBD is safe for cats, according to the Annual Reviews of Animal Biosciences 2023, which published a study titled “Scientific Validation of Cannabidiol for Management of Dog and Cat Diseases,” that found “CBD appears to have good bioavailability and safety profile with few side effects.”

Tools recommended for managing cat shredding are a metal comb with fine to medium teeth between 6 and 8 inches long. The National Cat Groomer recommends the comb because it helps remove dead hairs and catches mats and tangles hidden within the coat without irritating the cat’s sensitive skin. 

Metal de-shedding tools or rakes are not recommended for a cat shedding a lot because they damage the cat’s delicate skin and hair, which has the opposite effect and increases the risk of matting and tangles. 

Two other recommended tools for managing cat shedding are a rubber curry cat shedding brush and a grooming glove. The rubber curry cat shedding brush is perfect for lifting loose hair and offers an excellent massage, while the grooming glove is best suited for short-haired cats.  

Is There a Way to Prevent Excessive Shedding in Cats?

Yes, there is a way to prevent excessive shedding in cats. Shedding is not preventable, but avoiding a cat shedding a lot is possible. 

Prevent excessive shedding in cats by providing a high-quality diet, giving cat supplements for skin and coat health, promoting daily hydration, practicing regular grooming, minimizing stress, and staying up-to-date on dewormers and flea and tick preventatives.  

Diet and hydration greatly impact cat coat health, hair cycle, and shedding. Grooming, including brushing and bathing, directly affect the shedding. Dewormers and anti-flea and tick products prevent parasites that cause hair loss and shedding. 

A cat shedding a lot is more challenging to manage and nurture back into health than preventing the excessive shedding problem. Talk to the veterinarian to create an individual shedding prevention plan if unsure of what is best for the cat. 

Do Indoor Cats Shed More or Less Than Outdoor Cats?

No, indoor cats shed less than outdoor cats. Indoor cats shed moderately year-round, while outdoor cats have two marked shedding seasons, in spring and fall. 

Outdoor cats are exposed to sunlight and temperature which impact hair growth and shedding, hence having typical shedding seasons. Indoor cats live in controlled environments and do not have a shedding season. 

An indoor cat shedding a lot suddenly is a cause for concern and requires proper veterinary attention. An outdoor cat shedding excessively out of season requires veterinary examination.

What Health Issues Can Excessive Shedding Indicate in Cats?

The health issues excessive shedding in cats can indicate are listed below. 

  • Allergies: A cat shedding a lot indicates an allergy health issue. Feline allergies are relatively common and challenging to diagnose and manage. Food ingredients and environmental factors cause cat allergies, and symptoms include excessive shedding.
  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine imbalance caused by an overly active thyroid gland producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism is widespread in felines and, among other symptoms, causes skin and coat changes, resulting in hair loss and shedding. 
  • Psychogenic Alopecia: Increased shedding indicates health and behavioral issues like psychogenic alopecia. Psychogenic alopecia is a condition in which the cat overindulges in grooming due to behavioral problems like stress and compulsion. The excess grooming causes extra shedding. 
  • Parasites: Excessive cat shedding is associated with parasites like fleas and ringworms. Both conditions are a nuisance and a zoonosis, meaning they are hazardous and transfer to humans. Parasites are more common in outdoor cats, but a strictly indoor lifestyle is subject to infestations. 
  • Cancer: Shedding, in rare and severe cases, indicates feline cancer and develops as a part of the so-called paraneoplastic syndrome. Paraneoplastic syndrome is a set of unusual disorders occurring when the cat’s immune system is triggered by the tumor’s presence. 

How Do Hormones Influence Cat Shedding Cycles?

Hormones influence cat shredding cycles because they affect the hair growth cycle, increasing or decreasing shedding in cats. Reproductive hormones significantly affect hair cycles, so pregnancy and lactation result in a cat shedding a lot. 

Ovarian and testicular tumors promote the production of specific female or male reproductive hormones, which causes shedding problems, but tumors of the reproductive glands in cats are relatively rare.  

“Testicular tumors are rarely reported in cats,” according to “Interstitial Cell Tumor and Sertoli Cell Tumor in the Testis of a Cat,” 2007. “Ovarian tumors are uncommon in cats” and “account for 0.7%-3.6% of all tumors in cats,” according to The Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology.

Adrenal and thyroid hormones influence cat shedding cycles, too. Adrenal gland problems, like Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) or Addison’s (hypoadrenocorticism), are infrequent in cats, but hyperthyroidism is very common. 

What Role Does Grooming Play in a Cat’s Shedding?

Grooming plays a pivotal role in cat shedding. Marty Becker, DVM, says, “Grooming will attract a large amount of hair that would otherwise be shed.”

Regular grooming, specifically brushing, is the most effective way to manage a cat shedding a lot. Brushing helps remove loose hair and promotes skin health by massing the skin, promoting circulation in the skin, and helping distribute natural skin oils. 

Brush the cat daily to reduce shedding and support healthy skin and coat. Start brushing while the cat is a kitten to create a habit and make grooming a more pleasant experience. 

Yes, hairballs are related to your cat’s shedding habits. Hairballs are a normal part of the cat’s grooming routine, and grooming is more intense during heavy shedding seasons, in the spring and fall. 

Hairballs are blobs of undigested coats. Hairballs are tube-like and have entangled grass, digestive fluids, or partially digested food in some cases. Cats lick dead hairs while self-grooming. 

The cat’s tongue is covered in throat-facing sharp little barbs that prevent the hairs from escaping, and the cat swallows the hair. 

A small amount of the swallowed hairs get through the digestive tract, but most accumulate in the stomach and form hairballs, which are then thrown up or coughed out. 

Seasonal hairballs and a cat shedding a lot are more common in long-haired cat breeds, such as the Persian, the Himalayan, the Siberian, the Ragdoll, and the LaPerm. 

Can Allergies in Cats Lead to Increased Shedding?

Yes, allergies in cats lead to increased shedding. Poor skin health, reduced coat quality, and excess shedding are signs of cat allergies. Cats are allergic to food, environmental factors, or flea bites. 

Allergies cause skin irritation, which directly affects coat health and quality. Skin irritation is itchy, and a cat constantly scratching itself damages the hair follicles, resulting in excess shedding, hair loss, and, eventually, patches of bald skin. 

A cat shedding a lot is suspected of having allergies, but cats’ allergies are hard to diagnose and manage. Modern veterinary medicine still fails to provide a 100% accurate test determining the cause of the cat’s allergy. 

Should I Be Worried About My Cat’s Shedding During Pregnancy?

No, a cat shedding a lot during pregnancy is no cause for worry. Excessive shedding during pregnancy and lactation is normal and does not require veterinary attention in most cases. 

Cat pregnancy and lactation are demanding and deplete the cat of the calcium and essential minerals and nutrients necessary for a healthy coat, resulting in shedding. 

Some cats start shedding at the end of the pregnancy, but most lose excess hair after birth and during the kitten nursing period. 

Talk to a veterinarian about special coat health nutritional supplements for pregnant cats to prevent excess shedding in pregnant and lactating cats. 

Is It Possible for a Cat to Shed Too Little?

Yes, it is possible for a cat to shed too little. Hairless cats and cat breeds with extremely short hair shed almost not at all or minimally. 

Examples of hairless cat breeds are the Sphynx and the Peterbald, and for short-haired cats, the Devon Rex, the Cornish Rex, the British Shorthair, the Siamese, and the Bengal. 

The number of cats that do not shed or shed very little is small. Most cats, whether purebred or mixed, shed year-round or during certain seasons. The only difference is the shedding intensity.