If you are a cat lover, one of the things you love about your feline friend is most likely their soft, silky coat. It can be strangely soothing to see and touch the soft fur of your cat. But you may wonder why cats develop this unique softness in their hair.
Your cat’s fur is soft for a number of natural and environmental reasons. Diet, genetics, and grooming play a pivotal role in how silky your cat’s fur feels. In addition, cats have a three-layer coat that protects them from the elements and makes them feel incredibly fluffy.
This article discusses why cats have come to possess such soft fur and the benefits their coat provides. Keep reading to learn more about these furry felines and why their fluffiness can protect them.
A Good Diet Is Essential for a Soft Coat
Many veterinarians chalk a dull, dry coat on cats up to poor nutrition and an unsupervised diet of foods that lack the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Poor diet is a significant factor in why feral and stray cats often have dry and wiry hair—unlike house cats.
Stray cats eat less food because it is more scarce, and the food they manage to find is often void of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. This affects the softness of their coat.
On the other hand, indoor pet cats are usually fed a rich diet that meets the cat’s nutritional needs. To grow a healthy, soft coat, a cat especially needs foods containing plenty of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
The Feline Nutrition Foundation says that a cat’s hair is composed of about 95% protein, and therefore, the cat needs this nutrient in abundance for a healthy coat. Additionally, approximately 25-30% of the animal’s daily protein intake goes toward growing and maintaining its skin. As you can see, protein intake is a significant factor in how soft a cat’s fur gets.
Cats also need plenty of fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are also called essential fatty acids because cats cannot produce them themselves. Similar to humans, cats emit oils from their sebaceous glands that lubricate their skin and hair. Without these essential fatty acids, their hair becomes matted, dry, and dull.
Vitamins and Minerals
Particular vitamins and minerals are also necessary for a cat’s diet to grow a thick, healthy coat. Some of these include copper and zinc, which contribute to skin health. A lack of these minerals can cause hair loss, dull coat, and even hair discoloration.
You can usually find all of these nutrients and minerals in many homemade and commercial cat food brands. Feline Nutrition encourages a raw-meat diet to help your cat have a healthy coat. A beneficial practice is to give them a few sardines a week to boost their omega intake.
Here’s a YouTube video that explains the benefits of a raw-meat diet in providing a soft, silky coat:
Genetics Contribute to a Healthy Coat
Over time, some breeds and types of cats have inherited thicker or softer coats because they are used to colder climates.
Some cats also inherit the softness of their fur from their parents. Certain breeds, for example, the Ragdoll Cat, are ragged and hairy and have thick coats. Others, like the American Wirehair, have somewhat wiry coats.
In addition, longhaired breeds are usually softer and fluffier than their shorter-haired counterparts. If you are not sure about the breed and lineage of your cat, DNA or ancestry kits are available that can help you discover more about what kind of feline you own.
Grooming Can Help Cats Have Softer Fur
You may wonder why your cat spends so much time grooming themself, or why they even groom each other at times. By grooming or licking their fur with their tongue, they detangle knots, remove dirt, and spread the natural oils from their skin over their hair, making it softer and silkier.
The grooming process also gets rid of excess dead hair, leaving only healthy, soft hair. The more cats groom, the softer they become. You can help your cat have softer, silkier fur by brushing and bathing them and making sure they have plenty of water. This article suggests several tips for keeping your cat’s coat soft and silky.
In addition, giving them supplements such as coconut oil, egg yolk, honey, and keratin can add to the luster of their hair.
Cats’ Coats Grow in Layers
The visible hair of a cat is not the only coat it possesses. Cats have three layers of fur that combine to form the soft coat that protects and keeps them warm in winter. These layers are:
The undercoat of a cat consists of a layer of down hair that grows near the cat’s skin. This down hair is shorter and fluffier than the outer coat. It helps keep cats warm in winter, a process known as thermoregulation. Most cats’ coats are softer in the winter when the down hair or the undercoat is the densest.
Also known as the guard hair, this layer of hair is much coarser than the downy undercoat. As the outer layer of hair, it protects the cat from ultraviolet radiation from the sun and also repels water, helping to keep the cat dry. This outer coat is coarser and contains pigment and markings that you see on the cat.
A third layer also exists between the undercoat and the outer coat. It is known as the awn hair, and it helps both the undercoat and the outer coat do their jobs.
All three of these coats work together to contribute to the softness that you feel when you pet your cat.
Cats Soft Fur Provides Protection
The softness of a cat’s fur is not just about aesthetics. It also serves a vital purpose in the life of the cat. The coat of a cat contributes to the protection and survival of the animal by helping it slip through small spaces and increasing its ability to withstand injury.
Protection From the Elements
The coat of the cat, especially its coarse outer coat, protects it from dangerous ultraviolet radiation and heat from the sun. It also helps to keep the cat warm and cozy in the winter. The thicker the cat’s coat is, the warmer it remains in cold months.
Slipping Through Small Spaces
The movements of each hair on the cat’s body will send signals through the skin when they attempt to slip through narrow spaces. The signals help them maneuver through without getting stuck or harming themselves.
Protection From Injury
The cat’s coat creates a barrier of sorts that protects it from getting injured. A thick, furry coat will help protect the cat from cuts and scratches. It serves to prevent the cat from potential injury by predators or other cats, which is a danger for any animal or pet, especially those who spend time outside.
Your cat’s soft fur is not only beautiful and pleasurable to the touch; it is smooth and silky for several reasons. Here’s a recap of the most important points discussed in this article:
- A good diet contributes to the softness of the cat’s fur.
- Genetics contribute to how soft your cat’s fur is.
- The more a cat grooms itself, the softer its fur will become.
- Cats’ coats grow in three layers.
- The cat’s soft fur protects the animal and keeps it from getting injured.
- Better With Cats: Why Are Cats Soft?
- Feline Nutrition Foundation: Why Did My Cat’s Fur Get So Silky?
- YouTube: FelineNutrition: Why Did My Cat’s Fur Get So Silky?
- Animallova: Important To Know: 2 Ways To Properly Brush Your Cat
- Animallova: 6 Tips To Make Your Cat’s Fur Shiny, Soft, and Smooth
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.