blue tabby maine coon kitten standing on cat furniture tilting head beside a houseplant in front of white curtains

Cat Shedding and Genetics: A Comprehensive Guide into Feline Fur

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As cat owners, we’ve all experienced the seemingly endless shedding of our feline friends. But have you ever wondered why some cats shed more than others? The answer lies in their genetic makeup. In this extensive blog post, we’ll explore the world of cat genetics, the genes associated with cat shedding, their different variants, and how these factors can influence a cat’s shedding amount. We’ll also delve into the different combinations of genotypes and their impacts on cat shedding, providing examples of various cat breeds and their genotypes in relation to shedding.

Young woman with her Siamese cat

Unraveling the Complexity of Cat Shedding

Shedding is a normal part of the life cycle of a cat’s hair, much like humans lose old and damaged hairs. However, the degree of shedding varies widely among individual cats – and while factors such as diet, environment, and health play a role, genetics is a significant influencer. Currently, there is no specific gene identified that directly controls the amount of shedding in cats. Unlike dogs, where the MC5R gene on the SD locus has been linked to shedding1, the genetics of cat shedding are not as well understood. Nevertheless, aspects such as hair length, growth cycle, and follicle density, all genetically influenced, indirectly impact shedding.

The Role of Hair Length in Shedding

One key gene that influences hair length in cats is the FGF5 gene2. This gene has two variants – the “short hair” variant (L) and the “long hair” variant (l).

  • L/L: Cats with this genotype usually have short hair. Breeds such as the British Shorthair and Siamese fall under this category. Short-haired cats can still shed significantly, but due to the short length of the hairs, the shedding may be less noticeable.
  • L/l or l/l: These genotypes typically result in medium to long-haired cats. Breeds like Persians and Maine Coons, known for their luxurious coats, fall under this category. Long-haired cats often appear to shed more simply because their longer hairs are more visible when shed.

Woman combing her cat on the windowsill.

Hair Growth Cycle: An Influencer of Cat Shedding

The hair growth cycle is another key player in the shedding process. Hair growth in cats, as in all mammals, occurs in cycles. It starts with the anagen phase (growth), followed by the catagen phase (transition), and finally the telogen phase (resting), after which the hair falls out3. The length and duration of these phases are genetically determined and can influence the amount and timing of hair that a cat sheds at any given time.

Hair Follicle Density: A Contributor to Cat Shedding Perception

Another aspect to consider is hair follicle density, or the number of hair follicles per unit area of skin. Cats with a higher hair follicle density may appear to shed more simply because they have more hair to lose. This trait is likely controlled by multiple genes and is not well understood. However, it’s an important factor to consider when discussing shedding.

Bengal cat at home

Cat Breeds and Their Shedding Genotypes

Different cat breeds exhibit different shedding patterns due to their unique genetic makeup. Let’s explore a few examples:

  • Siamese

    Known for their short, fine coat, Siamese cats are usually moderate shedders. Their genotype for the FGF5 gene would likely be L/L. Despite this, Siamese cats can still shed quite a bit, particularly during changes in season.

  • Maine Coon

    These cats are known for their long, dense fur. With a likely FGF5 genotype of l/l, Maine Coons are known to shed quite heavily, especially in the spring and fall. Regular grooming is essential for these cats to manage shedding and prevent matting.

  • Sphynx

    The Sphynx breed is unique due to its apparent lack of a fur coat. This “hairless” trait makes the Sphynx a non-shedding breed. The lack of hair in Sphynx cats is due to a mutation in the KRT71 gene4, which disrupts the normal formation of hair strands.

  • Bengal

    The Bengal cat, renowned for its striking spotted coat, is a moderate shedder. Bengals typically have short, dense fur that feels sleek and luxurious to the touch. Based on their coat length, their genotype for the FGF5 gene is likely L/L. Despite their short hair, Bengals can still shed quite a bit, particularly during seasonal changes.

  • Ragdoll

    Ragdolls are known for their large size, striking blue eyes, and semi-long, plush coat. They’re typically less prone to matting compared to other long-haired breeds, but they do shed, especially during the change of seasons. Their genotype for the FGF5 gene is likely l/l. Regular grooming can help manage their shedding and keep their coat in top condition.

  • Russian Blue

    Russian Blues are short-haired cats known for their dense, plush, double coat of a bluish-grey hue. They are moderate shedders, with their FGF5 likely being L/L. Despite their double-coat, they don’t shed as heavily as some other breeds, but a weekly brush can help keep shedding to a minimum and maintain the health and beauty of their coat.

Remember, while genetics play a significant role in determining a cat’s shedding pattern, other factors such as diet, health, and environment also contribute. Regular grooming, a balanced diet, and routine veterinary care can help keep your cat’s coat healthy and minimize excessive shedding.

funny sphynx cat squints one eye


In conclusion, while the specifics of cat shedding genetics are not fully understood, it’s clear that factors such as hair length, growth cycle, and follicle density play significant roles. Understanding these factors can help us better manage our feline friends’ shedding and keep our homes cleaner. As research continues, we hope to uncover more about the fascinating world of feline genetics and how it shapes our pets’ unique characteristics.


  1. Paw Print Genetics – SD Locus (Shedding)
  2. Basepaws – Cat Coat Genetics
  3. VCA Hospitals – Hair Loss in Cats
  4. OMIA – Hairlessness in Felis Catus

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