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Why Does My Cat’s Fur Separate? (3 Ways To Prevent It)

If you have seen your cat’s fur look separated you may be wondering if this is normal or a cause for concern…

Why does my cat’s fur separate?

Your cat’s fur can separate for several reasons. Sometimes, it’s something as benign as the cat needing manual grooming, their hair bunches on its own, or because it’s shedding season. Certain medications can also cause your cat’s hair to separate.

So, now you know. But, how often should you brush to avoid this? Can this happen to short-haired cats? What about the oil in their skin, can this affect it? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Is it natural or illness causing the separation?

Where the fur is separating on their body is also important. If it’s on a leg or the tail, it could be a natural depression because that’s where the bone flexes. But, it could also be something more serious, like skin or nervous condition. Seborrhea, cancer, obesity, and arthritis could be the culprits.

When a cat can’t clean itself often enough, the lack of grooming will cause issues with its fur and skin. This can result in dandruff, matting, and knotting. Pay attention to your cat’s behavior and the coat’s natural state. If you know it’s not a grooming issue, then look out for nervous licking, skin irritation, or injury.

Preventing your cat’s fur from separating

Why does my cats fur separate?

A ginger cat getting its fur brushed.

Most often, a good brushing or a bath will take care of fur separating. Looking over the coat every day will alert you to any problems that arise in their fur and skin.

01. Brushing Its Fur

For most issues, brushing daily will do the trick. Brushing removes dead skin, dander, and loose hair along with parasites, debris, and dirt. It distributes the coat’s natural oils into the hair follicles.

02. Bathing

Cats don’t require bathing often and it’s not advisable because of how drying soap and water are. Adult cats are consummate cleaners, so baths should be sparing and no more than once, maybe twice, per year. But, the bathing frequency will depend on the cat’s lifestyle, underlying health issues, and age. For example, an overweight 12-year-old may require more baths than a lithe three-year-old.

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Specific Requirements

Only use a shampoo formulated for cats. You will have to check the ingredients for quality control. Make sure it’s hypoallergenic without perfumes or harsh fragrances. If there is any scent to it at all, it should be pure essential oils. Don’t use soap designed for humans and make sure you rinse all soap off well. Residual soap can cause dandruff, digestive upset, or another health issue.

You may also want to get a conditioning product or use a tiny dab of olive or coconut oil. Massaged onto the skin, it can help guard against dandruff. If baths are going to be more frequent than is advisable, look into getting a dry shampoo.

03. Daily Inspection

No matter how long the fur is, you should inspect the coat daily. This will prevent clumps and tangles, especially for longer-haired cats. Checking the coat will also help detect unusual bumps, lumps, and sensitivity.

How often should you brush to avoid separating?

Short-haired cats only require brushing about once a week. But, medium- to long-haired cats need brushing every day along with those that have curly or silky coats. Some might even need it twice a day. This will not only help prevent the fur from separating but will also keep dander and hairballs under control.

Can you Overbrush a cat?

You can overbrush a cat. This will be truer for short-haired cats rather than long ones. But it is possible. The way you know you’ve overdone it is by the appearance of missing patches of fur or skin irritation. But this will happen more from the cat’s over-grooming than from brushing too much.

Can a cat’s nutrition make it look separated?

A cat’s nutrition can make their fur look separated because the skin is the largest organ on the body and skin cells replenish fast. For cats, hair covers almost every inch of their skin that sheds and grows back several times a year.

So for a cat’s skin and hair to stay healthy, it needs a well-balanced diet with minerals, vitamins, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. This includes the correct amount of calories according to their particular stage in life. Poor food quality can cause kidney and liver issues as well as dull, dry fur with separation and excessive shedding.

Can a cat’s fur give you an indication of its health?

Changes in fur can be an indicator of a cat’s health. Any illness that sticks around for a while will alter the way the coat looks and feels.

  • Stress – If a cat experiences long-term and chronic stress, its coat will dull and the fur can become rough. Some cats will exhibit profuse shedding when under massive amounts of stress.
  • Hormonal Imbalances – Older cats experience hormonal imbalances as well as other metabolic issues like humans do. But, cats that have had recent spay or neuter surgery may experience severe hormonal shifts which can affect their coats.
  • Digestive Issues – Any disturbance to a cat’s digestive processes can affect the appearance of its coat, including the look of separation. Things like parasites, fleas, intestinal worms, cancer, and chronic diarrhea will change a cat’s coat.
  • Seasonal – At season changes, particularly when winter approaches or if you live in the desert, the lack of humidity can irritate a cat’s skin. Using a cool-air humidifier can help prevent dry skin for your cat.
  • Allergies – Some cats can experience allergies to trees, grass (what about cat grass? click here), or pollen. Other cats can be allergic to bites or stings from insects and will develop patchy hair or a rash. This is because allergies can change the normal production of skin oils, resulting in excessive shedding, patches, and dullness.
  • Shampoo – Make sure the shampoo you use on the cat is heavy in oils and designed specifically for cats. Some shampoos can dry out their skin and irritate.

If you groom, bathe, or treat the separated fur and the problem returns, schedule a vet appointment for your cat to see what the issue could be. Some cases may require referral to a veterinary dermatologist.

Excessive dandruff, greasy coat, skin rash, itchiness, a horrid odor, or heavy shedding can be signs of serious health issues.  In most cases, these are easy to fix.

Do short-haired cats get separated looking fur?

Short-haired cats do get separated fur. However, unless they’re a Sphinx cat, otherwise yes, shorthair cats can get a separated look to their fur.

Can hyperthyroidism make a cat’s fur look separated?

Hyperthyroidism can make a cat’s fur look separated. This is a condition in older cats, but not uncommon for younger ones. Getting your cat routine blood work that includes a thyroid panel will be the only way to know for sure. But some symptoms of this disease include patchy fur, greasy coat, loss of appetite, and rapid weight loss.

Can the oil in your cat’s coat make it look separated?

A cat’s coat can look separated from the oils contained in it. But this isn’t generally the normal state of a cat’s coat. It’s usually because of seborrhea, hyperthyroidism, or too much conditioning treatment after a bath.  Residual shampoo can do this too.

Is a “Spikey-looking” the same as separated fur?

Spikey-looking fur isn’t the same as separated fur. This stands up and out from the rest of the coat, often giving your cat a punk-like appearance.

Lindsey Browlingdon