My Cat's Fur Looks Rough

My Cat's Fur Looks Rough

A bright, soft and silky coat is synonymous with good health in cats. If our pet kitty is seen to have a rough coat which looks neglected, coarse or even matted, then we don't just worry about cosmetics. We worry there may be some underlying health problem causing the dishevelled appearance. There are other factors which will be taken into consideration. If your cat spends a lot of its time outside, there may be environmental causes at root. If your cat is an indoor cat, then it is more likely to be something which is bothering them. This could be psychological as much as physical.

At AnimalWised we take a look at why your cat's fur looks rough, investigating the possible causes and suggesting solutions to bring both your cat's coat and their general well-being back to health.

A cat's coat

Depending on the breed of cat, their coat can provide a lot of character. Particularly, perhaps, with furry felines such as Persian or Himalayan cats. This doesn't mean hairless cats don't have similar levels of character. However, since a cat's coat will be a signifier of their overall health, it does mean you will have to look at other factors when determining a hairless cat's well-being. While hairless cats can live a healthy and fulfilling life, there are several functions of a cat's coat which include:

  • Thermal protection: a cat's fur with protect them from both cold and excessive exposure to sunlight and heat. Hairless cat breeds will often need special clothing to protect themselves from the cold in winter as well as the sun's rays when exposed to natural light.
  • Physical protection: a cat's coat doesn't just protect from heat and UV light. It also serves as a practical barrier against physical threats. This could be from jagged tree limbs in the wild or from attacks by rival cats or even larger predators.
  • Communication: cats, as with many mammals, use their fur as part of a complex communication system. For example, their ability to ruffle their hair or make it stand on end sends a clear signal that the cat is angry, defensive or otherwise agitated. Making their hair stand on end makes a cat look bigger which is useful if they want to avoid a predator or win a fight. Their fur is also important as it helps them to better interact with their environment.

If a cat has rough fur, it can indicate a health problem. Equally, however, if a cat does not provide the right care for their coat, then it can lead to health problems. This is one of the reasons cats are so keen on self and social grooming. They lick and preen extensively to ensure their coat is healthy and their protection is at its fullest. If a cat's coat is looking particularly lackluster, you should determine whether or not they are maintaining good grooming habits. This will help us in determining the cause of your cat's dishevelled or rough appearance, some of which we look into below.

Causes of a cat's poor coat

If your cat's fur looks rough, then there will be some reason for it. A cat will only go against its instincts to groom properly if there is some mental or physical problem prohibiting them from doing so. A cat will have rough hair for one of the following reasons:

  • Diet: this is perhaps the most common of hair related disorders in cats. An inadequate diet is one which does not provide enough of the necessary nutrients our cat's need. If this is the case, our cat's will show their deficiency by losing luster in their coat, making it prone to matting and even falling out in acute cases. However, not receiving enough nutrients from their food isn't always because a cat isn't getting the right food. They may be suffering from a malabsorption problem meaning the nutrients can't be absorbed by the cells in a cat's body. This means even when they eat well, their bodies are not getting the right nutrients and their coat can suffer correspondingly.
  • Pathologies: dermatological problems can also lead to problems with a cat's hair looking rough. A coarse coat can develop due to the skin itself having a problem. Skin problems like dermatitis or scabies, the latter caused by mites which burrow into the skin. This rough fur can be accompanied by dandruff, alopecia (hair loss), dry skin and even wounds opening up where the skin breaks. There are also many systemic diseases which can lead to our cat's developing a poor coat and rough fur. These include intestinal disorders, chronic kidney failure, immunodeficiency or even cancer.
  • Stress: if we see our cat's hair is rough or their coat is becoming damaged, then it is important to take them to the vet. This is so that we can rule out the possibility of certain pathologies or begin treatment if necessary. However, psychological stress can also be the root cause of your cat's rough hair. The stressor leading to the poor condition of their coat can be hard to determine, but it is important to look at possible environmental stressors such as moving to a new home, introducing a new pet, the arrival of a baby or problems with other cats outside the house. Stress lowers a cat's immune system, lowering their defenses and leading to rough hair.
  • Lack of hygiene: while cat's will indeed groom themselves, many will need regular brushing from their owners to maintain a healthy coat. This is usually due to their breed as longhair cats will need some help to keep their coat clean and healthy. If they don't they can become matted and promote ill health due to parasites and bacteria. Shorthair cats may also need some help, especially if they are unable to groom themselves properly due to old age or injury.

Caring for a cat's coat

To avoid a cat's coat from looking rough and to help make it lustrous and thick, there are certain considerations to make. This are both solutions to the cause of rough hair as well as general feline maintenance tips. They include:

  • Diet: the food we provide our cats should be of the highest quality or at least that which provides sufficient nutrition for a cat's needs. Many commercial brands are specially designed to provide all the nutrient's essential in a cat's diet so that it can build its immunity, exercise regularly and, of course, keep a healthy coat. There are other factors which will determine the type of feed you need to give to your cat. If your cat is a kitten, old, has digestion issues or is otherwise unwell, you may need to amend their diet accordingly. As they are obligate carnivores, it is generally not recommended for your cat to be vegan, but we have more information on vegan diets for cats if you are interested.
  • Deworming: the presence of parasites such as mites or fleas can also have a bearing on the condition of a cat's coat. They can even reduce their life expectancy by up to five years. This is why it is so important to keep cats dewormed using a product recommended by our vet. Providing the right vaccinations as soon as they are able will also help maintain the health of our cat and keep their coat nice and shiny. Deworming and vaccinations are not one off occurrences. They both have schedules which need to kept to ensure continued protection. Conditions such as dermatitis caused by allergies from fleas or other parasites make deworming so important. However, the presence alone of these insects doesn't always mean their coat will be visibly damaged.
  • Hygiene: brushing regularly will help you notice when a cat might have an infestation, check for general damage and remove dead hair which can promote infection. The older a cat gets, the more careful and regimented we need to be in taking care of their hygiene needs.
  • Stress: as stress can lead to rough or damaged fur in cats, avoiding it is one of the best ways to keep their coat healthy. Cats are creatures of habit, so they need to be kept in a routine. Deviation from this routine can cause them stress, making them act out or developing physical problems such as fur damage. Even boredom can be stressful for a cat, so you need to ensure they are engaged and have sufficient environmental enrichment. If you look after your cat's mental needs well, but are still unable to reduce their stress levels, you may need to speak to a feline ethologist who can help determine the cause and treatment for this stress.

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