The Difference Between Cat Hair and Fur
You will see mentions of both cat hair and cat fur. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but is there any difference?
Hair vs. Fur
All mammals, including humans, whales, pigs, elephants, cats, dogs, and even monkeys, have hair. Depending on how each species has developed, the hair has a different look, feel, and function.
There aren’t any significant distinctions between hair and fur. Technically, the term “fur” only refers to mammals with exceptionally thick body hair. Since human body hair is thin, it is typically not referred to as “fur.” Cats frequently have body hair, or “fur,” on them. Some “hairless” breeds, like the sphynx, refer to the short, nearly undetectable downy hair as “hair.”
People affectionately refer to their cats as “furballs” or “furkids,” while using terms like “hairballs” to describe the fur that cats swallow and then hack up.
A cat’s hair, for instance, is what you find on your black sweater. You can think of “cat hair” as a single strand and “cat fur” as a group. They might be many, but they are not grouped together like your cat’s fur is. You can either “comb its hair” or “brush its fur” when grooming your cat.
Breeders frequently refer to a cat’s coat—which further complicates matters—as the general appearance of the cat’s fur. In breed standards, this term is nearly always used, but you may also find “hair” referenced, as in “longhair” or “shorthair” breeds or subgroups.
In the end, whether you refer to the fluffy, fuzzy material covering your cat as hair, fur, or a coat, you will be in the right. Choose the phrase that feels most natural to you.
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Types of Cat Hair and Coats
Cat hair, like all hair, begins in the epidermis (below the skin), and the structure of the hair depends on its type. A muscle close to the root, just below the skin, is very temperature-sensitive. This muscle tightens in cold conditions or when a cat is scared or agitated, causing the nearby hair to stand straight up and give the cat the well-known “Halloween cat” appearance. Cats’ coats can contain one to three different types of hair, referred to as a “double coat” or “triple coat,” in addition to their unique whiskers, which are also hairs.
When it comes to cats, whiskers are the long, thick, tactile hairs that grow from the cheeks, above the eyes, the cheeks, and the outside of the lower legs. Cats’ whiskers, which are incredibly sensitive, are crucial for their abilities to detect openings, navigate in complete darkness, and possibly even detect scent. Cats’ whiskers play a significant role in interpreting body language.
The longer, stiffer hairs that protrude past the “base coat” are called guard hairs (awn hairs). These are the hairs that often determine the cat’s basic color. Guard hairs aid in delaying the flow of water, keeping a cat dry.
Also called out is the undercoat. Warmth is provided by the fluffier, softer hair. If a cat is not routinely groomed, this hair is the one that is prone to matting.
Depending on the breed of cat, awn hairs have a variety of meanings, but they often make up the bulk of the coat. The guard hairs are longer in some breeds than they are in others, like the Manx, where the (finer) awn hairs may be the same length.
These are sparse, baby-fine hairs, such as those found on the sphynx cat. (Humans also have vellus on all but a few body parts.)
Curly Hair vs. Straight Hair
As in humans, curly hair in cats has flattened shafts while straight hair has round shafts.
Cat Hair and Allergies
A minute protein particle that is present in cat saliva is the allergen that cats carry. When they groom, they transmit it to their hair, where it dries into small flakes that are known as dander. People mistakenly believe that cat “hair” is the allergy since really long or thick cat hair will contain more dander. Dander can also be present in the air, beds, carpets, and curtains, as well as throughout the entire house. The good news is that allergies to cat dander may frequently be managed.
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