Q: My mother has had a beautiful calico cat for more than 10 years. Since the day the cat was brought home, she has never stopped shedding (she does not have particularly long hair). No matter how much we brush her, she still sheds like crazy. Otherwise, she's the finest and healthiest cat around. What's the story?
Jonathan Palmer, Newport Beach
A: Shedding is a normal process that is often independent of any disease or skin disorder. Normal hair growth on both cats and dogs follows a cycle of growth, loss and replacement. In cats and dogs, the shedding is called a "mosaic pattern" because each hair follicle is at a different stage of development, and they do not shed at the same time. There is some apparent seasonality to shedding, with the most loss occurring in the spring and fall, but in Southern California, this pattern becomes less apparent.
When a cat becomes stressed or ill, there may be more loss. Of course, skin parasites or fungus can cause abnormal loss but these generally occur in patterns. Diet deficiencies, certain metabolic disorders and excessive bathing can all result in excessive shedding. It may be a good idea to have your cat checked by your veterinarian to make sure that the coat is normal and that there is no disease. Otherwise, regular grooming will help keep the shedding down and you should also consider the use of a hairball medication if your cat is licking off all this excess loose hair.