Our roving (within the confines of his loving home) feline reporter, Isaac Newton gives us his purrspective on shedding and the indoor cat.
This is part one of a four part study about how to being indoors all of the time can be healthier and more in sync with nature. And this isn’t just for your cats, but for you too! This week we talk about feline shedding. Stay tuned for next three newsletters when we talk about Circadian Rhythm, light and lighting, and intermittent fasting. This could be the healthiest year for your cats and you yet!
Newton’s Purrspective – Living the Indoor Life
The outdoors can be a scary place for a cat. Sure, it seems like fun running around (in nice weather) living the ancestral dream of being a Saber Toothed Tiger. Housecats have retained the predatory instinct but, I have to admit, we’re a lot smaller than those tigers. This limits our prey to rodents, birds, small reptiles and insects. Natural foods provide nutrients that are often not found in commercial diets and catching our own food provides good exercise as well as entertainment.
But let’s look at the importance of keeping kitty safe. Although some outdoor cats live long lives (perhaps using up all 9 of them), in general “indoor only” cats live 3-4 times longer. Outdoor cats have a much higher risk of disease and parasites. They are also at the mercy of the environment, particularly predators and cars. Cats just don’t understand that they could become prey themselves.
A kitten kept inside from day one easily adapts to the indoors, especially if the environment is enriched with Cat Faeries toys and lots of places to explore and hide. Catios are also becoming popular as a safe way to let kitty have a bit of fresh air without worry.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to living totally indoors. Some indoor cats don’t get enough exercise and can become dangerously overweight. Measuring food and having a playmate can help. I have 3 siblings (the oldest is 12 and the youngest 9) and we all still play like kittens.
Living inside can lead to another problem. The controlled environment (constant temperature and artificial light beyond normal daylight hours) could disrupt would should be a natural shedding cycle. Instead of seasonal shedding we are in CONSTANT fur dispersal mode. And it doesn’t just end up on your furniture!
Cats are “self-cleaning” so we ingest a lot of this fur when grooming. Those little barbs on a cat’s tongue face backwards, so once the fur attaches we have no choice but to swallow it. In small amounts the fur passes through the digestive system without problems. However, when a lot of fur is present in the stomach it rolls up into a ball which we cough back up – voila – the “hairball”.
What can be done to prevent excess fur in the tummy?
- Brush or comb kitty daily*
- Make it easier for the ingested hair to pass through freely
- Make fiber available – Cats are obligate carnivores so they are unlikely to crave a salad. However, they do tend to nibble on plant material if they are experiencing hairball problems. Having something safe like wheatgrass accessible could help.
- Increase hydration – Drinking adequate water is important for proper functioning of the digestive system and is also good for kidney health. Always provide clean fresh water, preferably in a glass bowl. Believe it or not, some ceramic bowls still contain lead. Yikes! Many cats prefer running water, so a cat fountain could also be helpful.
- Add a fish oil supplement such as ProNova Fish Oil, which is free of mercury and other toxic metals. In addition to aiding digestion it can reduce flaky skin and brittle fur.
Anyone who shares their home with a cat knows that felines actively seek out the sunny spots – all the better if it happens to be in a favorite chair or a comfy Cat Faerie bed. We don’t know if cats suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the dark months. However, full spectrum lighting (which mimics natural sunlight) is known to decrease cortisol (a stress hormone), increase serotonin (a mood stabilizer), and regulate circadian rhythms (the sleep cycle). Its effect on shedding is not known, but providing full spectrum lighting can make kitty, and you, more relaxed and happy.
* I would be remiss if I failed to mention that brushing a cat is far more challenging than brushing a dog. We tend to be very sensitive and although brushing may feel good initially it can lead to over stimulation. Everything seems fine until suddenly we are in touch with our inner tiger. So start slowly and learn how much kitty can tolerate. Several short sessions may be the best option. Grooming is also a bonding ritual between cats. Why not use it to show kitty how much you care and strengthen your bond?