Contrary to what some may believe, kittens are not born naked. Their skin is covered by a short, soft and/or sometimes wooly like hair or fur. Sometimes the kitten’s fur is already a similar color to what is expected as an adult, other times it is not. Most kittens will develop a coarser, longer, and sometimes darker coat by the time they reach six to eight months of age. This also depends on the breed of the cat, as different breeds have different rates of coat development. Other factors that may determine a cat’s coat development include day length, hormones, average outdoor temperature, and nutrition.
Interesting Facts About A Cat’s Fur
Did you know that cats have four types of hair? There are short fluffy hairs that are referred to as secondary hairs, underfur or undercoat. The second type of hair is the longer and stiffer outer hairs that are called primary hairs. These hairs are also sometimes referred to as guard hairs, outer hairs, or the outer coat. Unlike some other mammals, cats have hair called awn hairs. Awn hairs are much thinner than primary hairs. Last but not least, a cat’s whiskers are actually specially developed hairs known as tactile hairs. These tactile hairs help the cat sense their surroundings.
The ratio of the number of primary to secondary hairs in a cat can differ by age and/or breed. Newborn cats actually lack primary hairs. This is why a kitten’s coat is short and short. Usually after about 6 months a kitten will have developed a good number of primary hairs so that their coats are longer and coarser. Many variations exist again depending upon cat breed and can affect different factors of the coat such as length, color, and/or texture.
Each hair on a cat grows from a simple opening within the skin known as the hair follicle. Even more interesting, kittens are born with all of the hair follicles it will ever possess. Any future differences or changes of the cat’s coat will be due to changes within the follicle. Each hair shaft produced by a cat’s hair follicle will eventually die and be shed and replaced by a new hair shaft produced by that particular hair follicle.
Cats continuously shed dead hair from their hair follicles and replace them with a new live and growing hair. Technically there is no such thing as a non-shedding breed of cat. The extent or rapidity to which an individual cat sheds is however governed by age, amount of sunlight, breed, sex, hormones, outside temperatures, allergies, nutrition, health, etc.
Depending on the breed of cat and the cat as an individual, each cat will shed and regrow hair at different rates. If a cat sheds often it is more noticeable than if he or she sheds extensively but for a period of only several weeks. Most indoor cats tend to shed in a more or less continuous fashion due to artificial heat and light. While cats that are kept strictly outdoors tend to shed for several weeks during major seasonal changes, most notably during spring and fall. Usually outdoor cats can be found shedding more secondary hairs in the fall for warmth and the losing the underfur in the spring to replace most of it with longer primary hairs. The hair coat also changes in appearance and texture; however the absolute numbers of hair follicles and hair does not.
Hair Growth In A Cat
Interesting enough, the hair of a cat does not actually grow continuously, but rather in cycles. Similar to how we humans grow eyebrows. Anagen is the first phase in which the hair is produced. During this phase, the new hair grows alongside the old hair, which is subsequently lost. Catagen is an intermediate stage in the cycle, and telogen is the resting phase in which the cat’s hair follicle is basically left dormant. Kitty’s hair follicles are not all in the same phase at the same time either, which explains why we do not see a lot of bald cats.