Hair Shedding in Cats

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.

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 cat for some days, feeding with intravenous fluids may also be considered.

Another common ailment is associated with large amounts of fur accumulating in the intestinal tract. These fur balls 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 hair entering the intestinal tract. 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 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.

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 long grass at this time of the year and accumulation of grass seeds exacerbate the problem.

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