Do cats have fur or hair?

Hair is one of the distinguishing features of mammals. Cats are mammals therefore cats are expected to be hairy. Or do they? Cats are also known to be furry animals. People are drawn to the luxurious fur of these animals. Cat owners love to cuddle the pet and to run their fingers along the cat’s body that is covered with soft fur. So what do cats have…hair or fur? Cats actually have both fur and hair. When it comes to cats hair and fur are interchangeably used.

Cats are affectionately called fur balls because of the soft and thick fur that covers the body. And yet, cats are also known to develop hairballs because of their excessive grooming. Fur is used to refer to the coat of the cat and hair is used to refer to a few individual strands like the whiskers that are also referred to as tactile hairs. Cat hair is what clings to the dress and what makes the cat owner reach for the lint remover. To compound the confusion, the “thing” that grows on the cat’s skin is also called coat. These furry animals are also classified into long haired and short haired breeds.

The fur or the hair that covers the cat’s skin grows from the epidermis. Hair is rooted next to a muscle that is very sensitive. Cold temperature would make the muscle contract making the hair stand up. The muscle would have the same reaction to fear so that a threatened cat would manifest a “Halloween cat” appearance. A square inch of cat skin would have about 130,000 hairs. Different breeds of cats have different types of coat. Some breeds are double coated, others have triple coats. The Siamese, British Shorthair, Domestic Shorthair, Russian Blue and the Sphinx are some of the short haired breeds. Persian cats are one of the famous long haired breeds. Other cat breeds that belong to this category are Maine Coon, Domestic Long Hair, Turkish Angora, Ragdolls and Himalayan cats.

Cats have three different kinds of hairs – an undercoat, overcoat or guard hair and the vibrissae commonly called whiskers. Whiskers are very sensitive hairs. These are found on the sides of the cat’s muzzle, on the chin, above the eyes and on the cat’s lower legs. These tactile hairs are very important navigation tools of cats. The undercoat or down, the fur that is closest to the skin is the softest. This hair type that provides the cat with warmth has the tendency to mat especially in long haired breeds. The awn hair is what forms the basic coat. In some breeds, the awn hair is longer than the guard hair while in others, both hair types would be of the same length. The longer guard hairs that are a bit stiffer forms the cat’s coloring. These hairs have the function of retarding water thereby keeping the cat dry.

Hair, fur, fuzz…all these names refer to the cat’s coat. The name does not really matter. What is important is the condition of the cat’s coat. Cats are great at keeping the fur or the hair clean. These animals have the kind of tongue that will efficiently clean the coat. However, cats would still need the owner’s help to ensure the health and the good condition of the coat. Are you a cat owner? How would you ensure the health of your pet’s coat? Good nutrition plus regular grooming equals healthy, shiny and luxuriously soft hair. A well balanced diet will maintain the good health not only of the coat but of the cat’s body as well. Although cats are famed for being fastidious groomers, these animals, especially the long haired breeds would still benefit from regular grooming.

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