They are gorgeous to look at and you can’t help wanting to stroke them all the time. Long haired cats are the archetypally beautiful cat breed. For all cat-lovers who like long haired cats, Persian cats are naturally the first choice. They have far and away the longest hair.
Semi long haired cats also have very beautiful fur, though it doesn’t grow quite as long as that of Persians.
Apart from the fur, each long haired cat breed has particular characteristics. The Angora cat, for instance, is the archetypal mother of all long haired cats; the British long haired cat has a quite placid nature; the Sacred Birman is very gentle, the Maine Coon grows to a great size and the Norwegian Forest Cat exhibits quite primitive behaviour. Exceptionally pretty representatives of the strain are the Ragdoll, the Ragamuffin and the Neva Masquerade.
Whether it’s an Angora, a Birman or a Persian – you just adore that long silky fur. This article will tell you how problems with fur arise in the first place, how you can guard against them and how you can ensure that the fur of your long haired cat grows thick and beautifully shiny and stays that way.
Spring and autumn make a lot of extra work when you have a long haired cat. This is when cats change their fur. Long haired cats are provided by nature with an almost completely new ‘coat’. When the sun gains strength outdoors, that is when they cast off their old winter fur.
This winter fur is replaced by a very much lighter summer coat, which protects the cat from over-intensive UV radiation and against excessive heat. Correspondingly, the winter coat – with its thick, insulating sub-layer of hair – protects the cat against the discomfort of wet and cold.
Either way, the proud owner of the cat has a lot to do. Because unfortunately they do shed their hairs! Daily and on a continuous basis. One reason for this is the intensive fur-licking engage in instinctively.
And on top of this, the hairs also drops off all by itself and based on a cyclical rhythm. This is called the ‘anagenous phase’ a period when new hair roots come into existence naturally.
This is followed by the ‘catagenous phase’, a transitional stage. After that the hair stops growing altogether. This is the ‘telogenous’ or rest phase.
The hair has now grown to its full length, but it is still firmly rooted. It starts to fall out in the ‘exogenous’ phase. In long haired cats, an incredible 12 to 24 percent of the body weight is down to the fur!
Cats who live indoors are particularly prone to moulting. This is because the temperature in the house on the whole stays much the same, which means that the cat does not have to adjust to heat or cold.
And the days too, in view of the indoor lighting, are all approximately the same length. Some cats react to this artificial environment by losing fur all the time, and unfortunately long haired cats are particularly prone to this. And in spring the phenomenon is even more accentuated.
Long haired indoor tigers are of course magical and gorgeous, but there is no doubt that looking after them takes more work than is the case with short haired cats. If possible you should brush them every day, right from the start – this is something you owe your long haired cat!
Whether your cat is an Angora, Birman or Persian, you adore that long and silky fur, for all that it is so hard to look after. So what’s the problem? You’re getting clumps of hair all over the house? The fur of your cat is no longer shiny, or is even showing bald patches? Then you must get to the bottom of it. The possible causes of fur problems are listed below.
Diet or change of food
Cats need to be fed in a balanced way and in keeping with their nature. A one-sided diet – consisting exclusively of dry food, for example – can have negative effects on the appearance of the fur.
Sometimes it can be helpful to compensate for dietary deficiencies by giving your cat vitamins. Your vet will undoubtedly be able to advise you, in such a case, whether the administration of wheat germ, salmon or olive oil, or a special paste perhaps, may have a positive effect on the fur.
When they are infested with mites and fleas, cats are naturally inclined to scratch a lot. In a worst case scenario, this can result in their pulling out whole clumps of fur. The infestation needs to be categorically diagnosed by the vet, after which you can apply the appropriate remedy. Regular treatment against worms is also essential, as fleas can transmit worms.
Stress-related hair loss
New people in the house, a competitive situation with other cats, moving house – there are many different reasons why a cat feels so stressed that it starts to lose increasing amounts of fur. In some cases Bach flower remedies have been found effective, as a way of restoring the cat’s emotional equilibrium.
Exceptional physical strains
Following an operation, a fever or even pregnancy, the exceptional physical burden involved can cause the long haired cat to lose fur.
Hormone irregularities, metabolic disorders, auto-immune diseases
If all the possible causes of fur problems in long haired cats mentioned above have been excluded, often the only way remaining is a thorough-going blood test in order to determine what is bothering the cat.
Besides fleas, ticks and mites – which long haired cats are likely to pick up when they are out in the garden or if they come into contact with other outdoor cats (and these too can be a possible source of disease) – bird lice are a particular problem for long haired cats.
Here it is not a case of six-legged wingless insects propagating in the cat’s fur. Bird lice are related to regular lice, and just as small – one to one and a half millimetres long, and half a millimetre across. In cats, bird lice feed not on blood but on scurf, gland secretions and hair. These unpleasant pests multiply rapidly, as the female can lay a fresh clutch of eggs in the fur every two or three days.
An infection with these parasites, which mostly occurs through contact with a stray cat, is particularly dangerous in winter, as the cat’s immune system is weaker than in summer.
Bird lice are particularly drawn to long, thick matted fur. In this kind of environment they feel very well at home, and can become a real plague!
Tip: if over a period of some time your cat has ragged fur, loses an excessive quantity of hair or actually licks itself raw, you absolutely must get to the bottom of the problem, and a visit to the vet may be indispensable!
We are what we eat – and of course that applies to cats as well. And good food, in the nature of things, will result in beautiful thick fur. Cats are carnivores, so the important thing for choice of cat food is that it should have a high proportion of easily digestible meat.
This should be at least a two thirds ratio. The digestive system of our domestic cats is primarily geared to meat and the protein it contains.
Meat also contains taurine – an important amino-acid which cats cannot produce themselves. When cats have a natural and high-quality diet, their fur will be all the better for it. If the ingredients are listed on the package, you have a better chance of judging the quality!
Tip: find out from a vet you trust what factors you should bear in mind in feeding your cat, and what additives are suitable and beneficial to the fur.
When your cat is in a relaxed and cuddly mood, and you too have got time to do the job properly, then it’s the right moment for giving the cat a thorough fur treatment.
It would be great if you can make it a part of the day’s routine. Your long haired cat will thank you in every way – first of all with its affectionate appreciation, and then too with its beautifully cared for fur.
It’s a good idea to find a room where no surprising loud noises are going to distract the animal. Then put the cat in front of you – perhaps on a table (but make sure it is lying on a cloth).
Then you caress it for a while first, before starting with the head and carrying on brushing towards the tail. Always in the direction of the hair, of course.
Tip: finding the right place for fur treatment is an important factor. You can create a cosy corner for the purpose, and let the cat first have a sniff of all the tools you use for fur care so that it feels comfortable with them.
The tail of your long haired cat should be just brushed, never combed. Otherwise there’s a high risk of pulling out those gorgeous tail hairs.
Cats don’t generally like being turned over on their backs. So either put the cat on a table, or do its tummy from below. Or another variant is to place the cat on your arm, and hold its front paws with one hand while combing it with the other.
The more your long haired cat trusts you, the more willing it will be to let you care for its coat. Reward it with a treat afterwards, and it will soon register the fact that keeping still will result in a reward.
But it’s worth all the effort, because the daily ritual of brushing also gives rise to a closer relationship between you and your pet!
Tip: cats too are creatures of habit, and will enjoy the daily ritual of fur care with you. So try to reserve the same time of day each day for grooming your long haired cat. Even every other day is better than doing the fur at irregular intervals and on rare occasions.
Because the less frequently you brush the fur of a long haired cat, the more difficult it is going to be from one time to the next, and so it is also going to take longer. You can even get densely matted fur and tangles lying close to the skin.
These can actually do permanent damage to the sensitive skin of the cat. Itchy eczema may develop, and raw spots can even become inflamed, with serious effects for the animal’s health.
Tip: before starting the fur grooming ritual, choose a time when the cat is relaxed in every way. The same goes for you! Do it in the quietest place possible, and always in the same place.
The important thing is to take the individual character of your cat into account. Never compel the cat to do something it doesn’t want to do. This applies of course whether the animal is young or old.
Living with cats is a lesson in patience! So you should schedule around fifteen minutes for the daily fur care ritual – though every other day is also a possible option, if you just can’t find the time.
But less may in the end mean more, as the long haired cat’s fur just does get matted very easily.
Tip: if you have a young cat, it’s a splendid opportunity for getting it used to a daily pampering regime, introducing it to care treatments in a playful way first of all.
A special brush for the successful treatment of your darling’s fur is strongly advised – even if the purchase of such articles may turn out to be a bit expensive. So called ‘Pluck brushes’ in particular, are highly suitable, making it a whole lot easier to remove the dead sublayer of hair and any loose hairs.
As with human hair, brushes made of natural bristles (wild boar’s bristles, for example) are the tool of choice, if you want to achieve a beautiful shiny coat.
Tip: get all the tools (brush, comb, damp cloths, moistened tissues, powder etc.) ready before you start. The simplest thing is to provide a cat grooming basket to hold all the utensils needed.
It is advisable to use a metal comb with wide, rounded tines. And a plastic brush with studs can also go down very well for massage treatments with a long haired cat. Shop around a bit – there’s the right fur care accessory for every kind of length.
Behind the ears, under the armpit, on the inside leg and around the bottom – these are all places where the cat is naturally sensitive, just like us human beings. You would be advised to treat these areas first with a bit of powder, or else a care foam.
In the trade you can also find special defelting sprays for exceptionally stubborn matted areas. Spray on, carefully dab it off and then comb it out – that is the right method to follow.
There are also oils for treatment of the fur of long haired cats.
Tip: with all products, quality and naturalness are the features to go for. Cats can have allergic reactions to synthetic products, and they also have an extremely sensitive sense of smell. Smells that we like, may be absolutely repulsive to a cat.
Our domestic cats are by nature rather shy of water, even though there may be frequent exceptions to the rule. Everyone knows their own cat best, and will be able to judge how much or how little it is going to enjoy being put in the tub.
Basically a full body wash – and please, do use a special cat shampoo – should be the very last resort in extreme need, for example if your long haired cat has diarrhoea, has come into contact with a toxic substance or has been badly dirtied for some other reason.
This is because baths are stressful for cats, and frequent washing can lead to skin problems. Alternatively you can carefully clean caked or matted areas with lukewarm water. Cleaning cloths can also be cautiously used (unscented ones) to clean the inside of the cat’s ears.
Encrustations in the corners of the eyes are particularly likely to occur in elderly cats and Persians. These can well be removed with a bit of moistened kitchen towel.
Tip: neither short-haired nor long haired cats like baths (though of course there are exceptions). This means that a bath should only be considered if your long haired cat has become seriously dirtied in some way. But consider first whether blunted scissors might not be a better alternative.
If it becomes absolutely unavoidable, you may just have to cut out a tangle – either with a special defelting knife, or perhaps better with scissors (the scissors must have blunted edges).
Please be really careful in this case, for it isn’t often that the cat stays completely still. Insert a comb between the skin and the tangle before you start snipping – then nothing is likely to go wrong.
Tip: besides brushing, you should continuously trim the long hairs around the cat’s bottom. Because this is an area where faecal matter has a way of adhering to the hair, with very unpleasant consequences all round!
When the fur is completely matted and damaged, a visit to the vet and a mild anaesthetic are the only way to go. Cutting away the fur without anaesthetic is not an option, as cats – by contrast with dogs – will never stay still for long enough, so the risk of injuring them is unacceptable.
The entire procedure is unpleasant, both for the cat and for its person – because first of all any anaesthetic is a strain on the system, and then because it is going to take some time for the fur of a long haired cat to grow back again to pristine condition.
Cutting away the fur will stimulate the renewed hair growth. At this point, regular brushing is more important than ever.
Tip: if not before, an operation of this kind makes it absolutely essential to introduce a consistent grooming regime. The important thing is to avoid matting occurring again.
Plastic combs are absolutely not recommended, because during combing they can accumulate an electric charge. Then you and the cat may get the occasional shock – in every sense of the word.
Time pressure! Because your cat is going to know at once when you haven’t actually got time to do the job properly.
Bustle and noise in the room. It will irritate your cat if you have the television on, or listen to loud music during grooming. Loud voices and shrieking children are also to be avoided – not the conditions you need for a successful grooming operation.
Tip: make grooming an attractive ritual, which not only benefits your cat but also gives you a nice opportunity to relax!
Always enjoy the time that you spend on your long haired cat and the care of its fur. Your cat will reward you with its devotion, and also of course with its healthy and beautifully glossy coat.