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Why Does My Cat’s Fur Separate? (9 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…

What is a separated coat of fur? 

A separated coat of fur is when a cat’s fur clumps together to create a dull appearance. Separated fur can cause your cat to appear less attractive and may make them unhappy because of the discomfort it causes. 

Separated fur, also called clumping fur, is problematic and can be a sign of nutrient deprivation, illness, or general unhealthiness. Separated fur does not necessarily hurt your cat, but it can be problematic because of the way it makes your cat feel. 

What does good and healthy fur look like?

Healthy cat fur is smooth, shiny, and soft to the touch. It should not clump together for any reason. All cat breeds can have different fur consistencies. For instance, a domestic shorthair has a short, protective outer layer of fur with a short inner layer. Their fur is fine and often resembles velvet.

Long hair cats might be more prone to tangling than short hair cats, making it much more usual to see clumping even when they are healthy. Healthy long-haired cats should feel silky and smooth. Their fur is thicker than domestic short-haired cats, visibly and physically.

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.

Other Reasons your cat’s fur separates:

Cat fur separates because of unhealthy fur conditions, caused mainly by a poor diet or an inability to groom properly. Clumped or separated fur can mean your cat is not getting its required nutrients or may have more prominent health issues.

Monitor your cat closely to see if you can identify yourself why they suffer from separated fur. View the list below to see if any common reasons match your cat; otherwise, bring your cat to the vet for a thorough examination if you cannot tell the cause of their fur separation.

Common reasons your cat’s fur separates include:

  • Overweight
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Mouth problems
  • Elderly cat
  • Hormones
  • Skin infestations
  • Over bathing
  • Weather changes

Inability to groom

A cat that cannot reach specific areas will not be able to groom, resulting in clumping fur on those areas of its body. The inability to groom appropriately may stem from several things, like dental issues, skin infections, or being overweight.

If your cat is suffering from an inability to groom, try bathing your cat or visit your veterinarian to ask them how you can help groom your cat. Additionally, you must prevent your cat from getting to this point by feeding them only the recommended amount of food, so they do not become obese.

Health issues

Health issues are a common reason why cats sometimes get separated fur. Diseases like mouth, gut, and skin infections can be problematic to their health and cause poor fur quality because of the nutrient deprivation these infections cause. 

Additionally, mouth infections or dental issues can cause clumping fur because the pain deters your cat from cleaning themselves.

Weather changes

Weather changes can sometimes cause a cat’s fur to separate. Certain weather changes can cause extreme changes to your cat’s fur. For instance, cold weather and excessive humidity can cause your cat’s fur to lose its shine and become clumpy. 

Anxiety and stress

Anxiety and stress are leading reasons why a healthy cat’s fur will clump. Cats can become stressed for numerous reasons, resulting in fur clumping or distaste for cleaning. When cats become too stressed or anxious, they are too uncomfortable to groom themselves since grooming makes your cat vulnerable.

Cats get anxiety for many reasons, even if they seem minor to us. New housemates, increased activity, or a change in scenery are some of the main reasons your cat might be stressed. Even bringing a new item into the household or moving furniture can cause your cat increased anxiety.

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 separation. Looking over the coat every day will alert you to any problems that arise in their fur and skin.

Preventative techniques are essential for keeping your cat healthy, or your cat may suffer from continuous fur separation. Humidifiers, oils, and baths are good for preventing your cat’s fur from separating. It takes a conscious effort to prevent your cat’s fur from separating. Create a clean and anxiety-free environment, so your cat feels comfortable enough to bathe. 

Some of the best ways to keep your cat’s fur from separating are to:

  • Use a humidifier
  • Monitor & inspect their fur daily
  • Use Olive & Coconut oil
  • Give your cat baths when necessary 
  • Feed them a nutrient-rich diet
  • Reduce anxiety

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.

Giving your cat baths is essential if they cannot bathe themselves because they are elderly, overweight, or have dental issues which prevent them from washing themselves. 

Consult your veterinarian if you are intimidated by bathing your cat, and they will give you pointers to make the bathing process easier. Believe it or not, many cats enjoy the bathing process if you do it the right way. Plus, strategic bathing means you won’t end up with scratches, and your cat will not dislike you after bathing them.

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.

04. Use a humidifier

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Humidifiers will keep your cat’s fur from becoming increasingly moist so it does not stick together. A humidifier is essential in some environments because a prominent cause of fur sticking together is a change in weather. Therefore, a humidifier can ensure that your cat does not face issues from the changing weather in environments with weather inconsistencies. 

05. Monitor and inspect your cat daily

Always monitor and inspect your cat’s fur daily to guarantee no significant changes in their appearance. If you notice a change in appearance, then there might be a reason to take them to the vet for an examination. Your vet will quickly identify your cat’s cause for clumping fur. Check their food intake, activity level, presence around the house, and social activity to see if 

06. Use olive and coconut oil on your cat’s fur

Fur separation may occur when a cat does not have enough natural oils on their skin. Rub a coin-sized amount of coconut or olive oil onto the dry part of your cat’s skin after bathing them to give them an added boost of moisture. If your cat cleans themselves, you can wait until after they have washed to rub the oil into their skin. Never rub the oil into damaged skin, or it can be dangerous to your cat.

07. Feed a nutrient-rich diet

The most important way to prevent your cat’s fur from separating is by feeding them a healthy diet full of nutrients. Feeding your cat a nutrient-rich diet will keep them from looking unhealthy. If you need a specific type of food, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Your vet can provide healthy food for your cat to prevent your cat’s fur from clumping.

08. Take your cat to the vet

 Consult your veterinarian if you have tried preventative methods but notice their fur continuously separates. It is especially important to take your cat to the vet for an examination if they show symptoms of illness in addition to separated fur.

Veterinarians can identify whether your cat’s separated fur is something minimal or if there is a more significant underlying issue. If there is a major issue, your vet will provide you with the proper medications or dietary supplements to get your cat back to its healthiest self.

09. Reduce anxiety

Reduce your cat’s anxiety to keep them feeling comfortable in their home. When your cat feels comfortable, they are more likely to bathe themselves than when they feel vulnerable. 

Change can be a leading reason for anxiety in cats. If you are continuously rearranging furniture or bringing new people into your household, try reducing the change. Reduce the activity in your home or provide a safe space for your cat to bathe so they can keep their fur healthy.

How often should you brush to avoid separating?

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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 (click here if its biting the brush).

Can a cat’s nutrition make it look separated?

Cat food in a food bowl.

Cat food in a food bowl.

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.

Can separated fur cause my cat harm?

Separated fur will not cause your cat harm, but it can be a sign that your cat is not their healthiest. Health disorders and conditions that can cause fur clumping are diarrhea, gut disorder, worms, and cancer. These ongoing diseases may be significantly painful or stressful for your cat. The longer they have them, the more discomfort your cat may feel.

Take them to the vet immediately to alleviate any pain. It is better to address the issue of separated fur than see what further medical problems could result. While it might take effort to relieve your cat’s pain, it is better to put a small amount in now than a large amount later.

Lindsey Browlingdon