Is it ok to shave your cat's coat?
Cats are known for their grooming behavior. They constantly groom themselves using their rough tongue and are perfectly capable of keeping their coat well-maintained most of the time. This is the main reason why it’s not often recommended to give cats baths unless necessary. However, a common question from cat owners is if it’s okay to have their cat’s coat shaved. Thisis a common concern during the warm summer months, especially from owners of long-haired breeds. The assumption is that shaving down the cat’s fur can help keep them cool. But is this true? Are there other reasons to shave your cat or should it be avoided? Keep reading to find out!
What are the functions of a cat’s fur?
A cat’s coat or fur has many different functions, most of which focus on protecting them from environmental hazards. It serves as the first layer of defense protecting the skin from external offenders that can cause irritation and injuries to the cat. It also protects the skin from the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun, preventing sunburn in cats that are exposed to sunlight for an extended period.
Cat fur also has some water-repellant properties which help keep their skin dry and prevents moisture build-up on the skin’s surface. This is especially important as moisture build-up is one of the most common causes of superficial bacterial and fungal skin infections in cats.
Their coats are also responsible for regulating their body temperature during different weather conditions throughout the year. The coat helps keep them warm during winter by providing insulation to their skin. In extremely cold weather, muscles on their hair follicles contract and help provide additional warmth.
During warm weather, the cat’s fur traps a layer of air to help keep them cool. The trapped layer of air also protects the skin against extreme heat and prevents sunburn and other skin conditions brought about by extreme environmental heat, such as skin tumors like squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Aside from offering protection, the fur also serves as a sensory instrument for cats. The cat’s fur is sensitive enough to detect vibrations in the air, helping them to be more aware of any changes in the environment and avoid dangers that can come in contact with them. It also provides means for cats to communicate with other cats and other species.
Can shaving a cat’s coat lead to health problems?
Shaving your cat’s coat can predispose them to develop different skin and health conditions. By shaving their fur, we eliminate their protection against extreme weather conditions, water, and ultraviolet rays of the sun, among other things.Without proper protection against water and moisture, cats are more prone to developing superficial infections on their skin. Moisture is a good environment for fungal and bacterial growth and excessive or retained moisture on the surface of their skin often lead to moist dermatitis or dermatophytosis (fungal infection). While primary skin infections can easily be treated with topical or systemic antibiotics and anti-fungals, they can still cause severe discomfort in cats and can lead to secondary inflammation and complications.
Without their fur, cats are at risk of getting sunburns, especially if they spend most of their time outside. The ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause damage, sometimes irreversible, on the outermost layer of the skin and may lead to severe inflammation and secondary infection. In some severe cases, the damage is enough to cause changes in the cellular level and lead to cancer development.
Contrary to what most cat owners believe, trimming down a cat’s coat during hot weather does not help them cool off, but takes away their ability to regulate their body temperature. Shaving their coat can make them more prone to heatstroke during summer days and hypothermia during cold, winter nights.
When is it ok to shave your cat’s coat?
We’ve already discussed the many functions of a cat’s fur in protecting them from various hazards and health conditions, and the complications and health repercussions when you shave their coat down. It’s generally not recommended to have your cat’s fur shaved off, as it plays an integral role in the cat’s protection, temperature regulation, and sensory input.
However, there are situations where shaving their coat is actually beneficial and sometimes necessary. Certain health conditions in cats can be resolved faster if a portion of their coat, or the entire body, is shaved. In certain cases, it’s a part of the treatment protocol.
There are external parasites that live and stay on the hair strands, such as lice and certain mites. Though most external parasite infestations are easily treated with topical anti-parasitic medications, severe infestations can become persistent and difficult to completely eradicate. In such cases, trimming down or shaving their coat can help control the infestation and helps speed up the treatment process.
Cats with skin infections can also benefit from shaving their coat off. This helps expose the skin to air which is important in managing the infection. This also helps for better access to topical medications such as sprays and shampoos, which translates to better absorption of active ingredients and helps control and treat the infections successfully.
Bite wounds and lacerations can also heal much faster if the hair around the affected part of the skin is clipped. This helps prevent secondary infections from developing, keeps the lacerations and bite wounds free from contaminants, and makes disinfection and cleaning easier.
While these cases mentioned above require shaving the cat’s coat as a treatment, shaving the entire coat down the skin is never recommended. This will put the cat’s skin at high risk of developing infections or other skin conditions. If a generalized shaving is needed, such as in severe external parasite infection, the cat’s coat should be trimmed to a certain length and not completely down to the skin.
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