Proper hair growth in cats is not only critical for the appearance of your cat, but also for their overall health.
A lack of growth can expose cats to several possible skin infections and has several potential causes, including nutritional causes.
For owners to understand some of the reasons why your cat make not be growing hair and exposing them to possible infections, it is very helpful to understand the basics about the growth of hair.
How hair grows:
Hair growth in cats has several misconceptions about how this protective coat actually develops. The hair of your cat does not grow continuously, but rather in cycles.
In fact, it grows very similar to the way that eyebrows grow in humans and has three phases.
The first phase is called the Anagen phase which is where your cats hair is actually produced.
In this phase, new hair grows directly next to the old hair, which will eventually be lost by your cat in the process called shedding.
The second phase is referred to as the Catagen stage, which is the intermediate phase.
Telogen is the final phase and this is where your cat’s follicle remains dormant and waits to start the process all over again. Not all of your cat’s hair follicles are all in the same phase or stage at the one time for a very good reason.
If they were, your cat would have hair, become completely bald, and then would continually repeat this process.
Type of hair:
Hair growth in cats involves four different types of hair; secondary, primary, awn, and tactile hairs. When a kitten is born, they are not born naked or without hair.
In most every case, their skin is covered by a very short and soft type of hair. In some cases this growth may actually be wooly like in appearance.
In the vast majority of cases, this fur may be very similar in color to what their hair will eventually become, but not always.
For example, Siamese kittens are born with fur that is almost totally white or creamy in appearance, and then develop their dark points as they start to age.
Secondary hairs in your cat are short fluffy hairs that are also commonly called the under-fur or undercoat, and the primary hair is when it starts to grow in stages into longer and stiffer outer hairs.
Cats also have hair this is referred to as awn hairs which are much thinner than the primary hairs.
Whiskers are specially developed hairs that are called tactile hair and help your cat to sense things in their daily life.
Most kittens will develop a more normal hair growth that is coarser and longer between five and eight months of age. But there are several factors that will determine this and each breed may be slightly different.
Some of these factors may also retard normal hair growth which can place your cat in a very dangerous situation.
These factors include the actual length of the day and exposure to sunlight, hormones, the temperature or the climate they live in, as well as several nutritional factors.
Factors that threaten hair growth:
Proper hair growth in cats relies on several functions in their body to perform properly, but like several other bodily functions, there are factors that can very easily interfere.
The loss of hair in your cat is referred to as Alopecia, but this is different than factors that will actually interfere with your cat’s hair growing properly.
Hormones are always one of the first concerns for an owner to examine when your cats hair does not grow properly. There are some hormones that will stimulate hair growth, and there are some that will delay growth.
Androgens may also be a concern as they can very easily result in a more course hair to grow as well as lengthening the resting phase of your cat’s hair follicles.
Both of these are issues that can be tested by your veterinarian to make sure they are balanced properly as well performing properly in your cat.
There are also only factors such as ringworm as well as mange that can interfere with proper hair growth in cats. Ringworm can cause hair to fall out in spots, and mange can cause patchy hair loss.
But all of these causes are more related to Alopecia rather than actual hair growth.
The single largest cause of hair growth in cats not functioning properly deals with your pet’s nutrition.
Each hair shaft that is produced by a hair follicle will eventually die and is than removed by the shedding process in your cat. This is the main reason that your cat sheds as they are continually replacing this dead hair with new and growing hair.
In order for this to happen properly, they must be fed the correct nutrients. There are three nutrients that are critical for your cats hair to grow properly: Protein, Vitamin B-5, and Copper.
Cats cannot survive without protein as it is essential for all aspects of growth and development as well as maintaining their immune system.
However, it is also critical for proper hair growth to occur, especially in the form of cystine and methionine.
These proteins are found in meat and fish and if your cats diet is lacking these critical nutrients, it will result in dry, brittle, and sparse hair growth.
Cats need almost twice the amount of B vitamins than dogs to properly absorb nutrients in their body, and vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid, is critical for the proper growth of hair to occur.
It helps also assists in allowing copper to be fully utilized in your cats system and it also helps to reduce stress, depression, as well as easing anxiety.
But perhaps the most important function of this vitamin is in the suppression of infections.
As such, it is basically a two-edged sword so to speak. If your cats hair does not grow properly, it exposes their skin to all types of invading infections.
Proper hair growth in cats must include copper as it helps in both the development as well as the pigmentation of hair color.
It is also a natural antioxidant in preventing attacks that may impair hair growth in your cat. Most commercial cat food is supplemented with copper, but it is often not enough.
The recommended daily requirements for adult cats are 2.3 mg per pound of food.
Copper is very difficult for pregnant Queens to properly absorb, and you should check with your veterinarian about supplementing copper in this situation.
Proper hair growth in cats is normally taken for granted by most owners, but it is a very delicate balance in how it functions.
Every time your cat sheds, ask yourself if you are properly supplementing their diet to make sure the new growths are fed correctly.
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