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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

If Cat is Shedding a Lot, Try a Different Food

May 02, 2014 / (1) comments

I just bought a new couch. It’s brown with tan and orange accents. One guess as to what color my cat is. She’s a calico – or for those of you unfamiliar with that term — brown, tan, and orange. If you think that was accidental, you must not have had firsthand experience with how much hair a tiny little kitty can leave around the house.

 

There’s no way to stop the natural shedding process of course, but changing a cat’s diet can go a long way towards reducing the amount of hair that ends up on your couch, in your bed, on your floor, in your food…

 

The first step should always be to eliminate the possibility that disease is causing a cat to shed more than is normal. If you are observing patchy hair loss, an increase in scratching and chewing, skin lesions, or signs of generalized illness, stop reading and make an appointment with your veterinarian.

 

If, on the other hand, you are convinced that your cat is perfectly healthy, a change in diet is certainly worth a try. A mediocre food will not supply all the nutrients your cat needs to grow and maintain the best coat possible (in other words, the one that will shed the least).

 

When picking out a food with an eye towards reducing shedding, I recommend looking at two nutrients:

 

Protein

 

Cats are obligate carnivores. They need more protein in their diets in comparison to many other species, and much of that protein needs to come from animal rather than plant-based sources. If cats do not get enough protein in their diet, or the protein they do take in is of poor quality, their coat will suffer. After all, hair is made from keratin, a protein.

 

Look for a food that contains at least 45% protein on a dry matter basis. This information is available on the label’s guaranteed analysis. Use the following formula to convert nutrient percentages from an "as fed" to "dry matter" basis:

 

Find the percent moisture that is reported on the label’s guaranteed analysis and subtract that number from 100. This is the percent dry matter for the food. Next divide the nutrient percentage on the label that you are interested in by the percent dry matter for the food and multiply by 100. The resulting number is the nutrient percentage on a dry matter basis.

 

Also, make sure that the first item or two on the ingredient list are animal-based sources of protein.

 

Fat

 

Dietary fat also plays an important role in decreasing shedding, particularly essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In the right combination, fatty acids promote the development of a healthy coat and skin. Look on the food label for wording that indicates the presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and/or the presence of cold water fish oils (e.g., salmon oil) in the ingredient list. Flax seed oil is a less valuable source of essential fatty acids for dogs but is better than nothing.

 

The total fat content of a food to reduce shedding in cats should be between 25-35% on a dry matter basis. If weight gain is a concern for your cat, aim for the lower end of this range and closely monitor the amount he or she eats.

 

The benefits of the new diet should be evident in about a month.

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

Image: Rob Hainer / Shutterstock

 

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Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Anti-Shedding Diet
    05/09/2014 05:10pm

    It never would have occurred to me that diet would have a correlation to plain ol' everyday shedding.

    Of course, when one has multiple kitties, hair is everywhere. Personally, I consider it a treat to have a sandwich that doesn't have at least one cat hair in it. :-)

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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