Cat Nutrition for a Healthy Coat

WebMD discusses the factors that contribute to a healthy coat for your cat, including nutrition, age, weight, and bathing.

By Wendy C. Fries
WebMD Pet Health Feature

Reviewed by Katherine Snyder, DVM

A cat's shiny coat is an amazing thing. It's undeniably beautiful, a delight to touch, and supremely functional. There can be as many as 130,000 hairs per square inch in a cat's coat. And these hairs do many things:

  • They give a cat sensory data.
  • They protect it from heat and cold, wind and rain
  • They even help a cat manufacture vital nutrients like vitamin D.

But, as meticulous as cats are in caring for this treasure, once in a while a kitty's coat can lose its shine. To find out what's behind a cat's blah coat -- and what you can do about it -- WebMD talked to cat nutritionists and veterinarians about cause and effect, and collected tips on what you can do to care for your cat's coat.

Cat Coat Care: Why Isn't Your Cat's Coat Shiny?

Lots of things can cause kitty's coat to be dull, or its skin to be dry and flaky. A few of the most common causes include:

  • Poor nutrition. For healthy hair, skin, and body, your cat needs a diet with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, just like you do. And also just like you, if your cat eats nothing but cheap food that is more difficult to digest, kitty may end up short on vital minerals and vitamins.
  • Weight problems. As many as 57% of U.S. cats are estimated to be overweight or obese. When some cats get fat, they stop being able to reach their whole bodies for cleaning. This can lead to a dull, unkempt coat.
  • Age. When cats get old they can become less flexible or arthritic. Then they just can't twist and turn the way they used to, says Arnold Plotnick, MS, DVM, a veterinary internist and feline specialist in New York. So, age or pain could leave your normally fussy feline with a dull, bedraggled coat.
  • Bathing too often. In an effort to control dander or foil fleas, some people bathe their cat. Bathe kitty too much and you could be the cause of kitty's bedraggled coat.

These are just a few of the reasons your feline may have dry skin or a dull coat. Diabetes, parasites, skin infections, allergies, autoimmune diseases, dry winter air, or more serious issues can also be responsible. To get behind the reason for your cat's skin or fur problems, it's important to have kitty checked out by a veterinarian.