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11:39 AM   April 19, 2015
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The Lowdown on Shedding

Understand why and how cats shed to help customers minimize flying fur.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

Displaying photos of abundant dead hair may motivate customers to take action. (Courtesy of Furminator Inc.)
Shedding fur is a never-ending battle for cat owners. It covers couches and clothing. It balls up and gathers in corners and under furniture. No matter the time of year, shedding remains an ongoing frustration, but the gripes are declining.

The 2007-2008 American Pet Products Manufacturers Assn. National Pet Owners Survey reports that among respondents, 33 percent of cat owners complain about shedding. That number is down from 43 percent 10 years ago, thanks to the variety of shed-control products on the market and helpful retailers recommending the right tools for the job.

“I offer as much advice as people would like to have,” says Wanda Kelsey-Mendez, owner of Gatos Cat Boutique in Kansas City, Mo. “A lot of times, people aren’t really knowledgeable about why cats shed or what’s going on or when they need to take them to the vet.

A Natural Frustration

Hairballs Be Gone

Are hairball gels a thing of the past? They may be heading in that direction, due in part to an abundance of hairball-control diets and grooming tools designed to control the ingested hair.

The 2007-2008 American Pet Products Manufacturers Assn. National Pet Owners Survey reports that among respondents, only 13 percent of cat owners use the gels. That number has dropped from 48 percent 10 years ago.

“Cat owners are feeding their pets hairball-control diets, so they feel they don’t need the remedies,” says Amy Osete, vice president of marketing for Bamboo in North Hills, Calif. “I think it’s the diet plus things like the deshedding tools that are out on the market. I think that’s taking the place of the hairball remedies.”

For some cat owners, hairball-control diets and grooming tools aren’t enough, and that’s where hairball gels and pastes come to the rescue. Made with a petroleum base, the gels are designed to help the hairballs slide through the intestinal tract, says Rachel Lesperance, marketing representative for Mark and Chappell Ltd. in Elgin, Ill.

“Longer-hair cats, no matter what you do, they’re always going to have a hairball and they’re always going to be shedding,” she says. “So the paste will alleviate hairballs better than just a high-fiber diet.”

They can also be used as a preventive, she adds.

“The paste helps remove a hairball, and it also helps prevent a hairball,” she says. “It helps to keep the digestive tract lubricated so it can slide right through.”

Shedding is a nuisance, but it’s a natural process that all cats experience, says Brent Mayabb, D.V.M., of Royal Canin USA in St. Charles, Mo.

“It’s a cycle; it’s a constant turnover,” he says. “The follicle sprouts a hair, the hair goes through its growth and matures, and after a while, it starts to get old and it comes out.”

Spurred by soaring temperatures and sunlight shifts, outdoor cats typically shed in the spring, doing 75 percent of their total shedding from April to October, Dr. Mayabb says.

Indoor-only cats follow a slightly different schedule, he says. Because they’re not affected by temperature and sunlight like their outdoor brethren, they tend to shed continuously, creating a constant irritant for their owners.

Rachel Lesperance, marketing representative for Mark and Chappell Ltd. in Elgin, Ill., confirms this.

“With indoor cats, they’re in artificial light, heat and air conditioning, and they don’t understand when the different seasons are, so they’re constantly shedding,” she says. “They don’t know when they should have a thick fur and they don’t know when they should have a thin fur.”

A cat’s constitution can also affect their shedding rate, says David Porter, chief executive officer for FURminator Inc. in Fenton, Mo. A healthy coat means less shedding, he says.

“Health varies from person to person, and the same thing is true with cats,” he says. “There are a lot of different nutritional elements that play into the health of a cat’s skin and coat.”

The breed of cat can make a difference, too, says Amy Osete, vice president of marketing for Bamboo in North Hills, Calif.
“Shedding depends on a cat’s genetic makeup,” she says. “And it isn’t just long-hair cats that shed.”

Tools, Topicals and Nutrition
To tame cats’ shedding hair, Linda Riness, owner of Riverside Pet Supply in Astoria, Ore., points customers to an ever-growing variety of tools, from slickers and brushes to combs and mat breakers. And more cat owners are buying them. The APPMA survey reports that 75 percent of cat owners own grooming tools, compared to 66 percent in 2004.

“We recommend tools like the deshedding tools and molting combs,” Riness says. “And we suggest a lot of brushing so the coats don’t get matted.”

Lisa Winwood, project manager for Coastal Pet Products Inc. in Alliance, Ohio, suggests that cat owners adopt a regular grooming routine, which should start as soon as possible.

“Cats need frequent brushing to help prevent hairballs and maintain their coats’ natural luster,” she says. “Short-hair cats should be groomed every few days and long-hair cats every day. It’s best to start when they’re kittens to get them into a routine.”

Topical formulas, such as shampoos and conditioners, use essential fatty acids to nourish the skin and coat and lock in the moisture, while deshedding solutions help the ready-to-drop fur fall out, Porter says.

Diets have surged as shed-control options, too. Many cat food manufacturers offer hairball-control formulas, which are designed to provide soluble and insoluble fiber to help the cats pass the ingested fur and nourish their skin and coat from the inside out.

“Hair growth demands a tremendous amount of the body’s protein intake, and in some instances, up to 25 percent of the protein taken in by the pet can go to hair growth,” Mayabb says. “You want to make sure you provide an optimum amount of protein to prevent hair loss or decreased growth.”

Supplements can also help prevent shedding, Kelsey-Mendez adds.

“If there’s a whole lot of shedding, I recommend Halo’s [Purely for Pets] Dream Coat,” she says. “It’s an essential fatty acid that you add to the diet. And if cats are shedding excessively, they might not be getting the right nutrition. I always ask if they’re feeding a good-quality cat food.”

A Shedding Solution Center

Cleanup Solutions

Cat-owning customers are always looking for ways to wipe up their pets’ shed fur. Manufacturers and retailers recommended these remedies:

  • Sheets of sticky tape to clean up large surfaces, such as couches
  • Refillable sticky rollers for on-the-go cleanup
  • Easy-to-you lint fabric brushes 
  • Rubber grooming gloves that remove excess hair on the pet and furniture
  • Dust mops or sweepers to clean up the tumbleweeds
  • Fabric sprays that freshen and clean
Kelsey-Mendez merchandises her shed-control products in one area. When customers need help, she and her staff offer their advice and expertise.

“We have a really attractive slat-wall display where everything is really easy to see,” she says. “There’s a row of combs, a row of de-matters, a row of slicker brushes, and if they want to know the difference between them, I can tell them because I use them on my two Himalayans. I can tell you how they work and how they feel, and whether the cats seem annoyed when I’m using them.”

It’s an approach that manufacturers hail as successful. 

“Retailers should create a hairball area with the lint brushes, the pastes, the grooming tools, all the different shed-control products that are out there,” Lesperance says. “Customers will come in, know what they’re looking for and look at all the options that are available.”

Cross-merchandising is another tactic, Osete says. Customers come in for consumables, so why not suggest shed-control products in the food or litter aisle?

“People typically go into a pet store to buy food, treats or litter,” she says. “By the time they get to the section that they’re looking for, it would be great if there were something there that said, ‘Did you know it’s shedding season? There are ways to cope with this. Go see what’s new in this aisle.’” <HOME>

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