One evening, I was at an exercise class when someone came up behind me and began brushing down the back of my dark blue T-shirt. “You have a kitty, right?” my classmate quipped. “You’re covered in white hair!” I looked in a mirror, and sure enough – the back of my shirt was plastered with fur from one of our cats.
Before leaving home, I’d taken some time to relax on the sofa with a coffee, forgetting that I’d chosen one of Robin’s favorite sleeping spots to sit in.
Anyone who has dogs or cats will doubtless have similar stories to share. Whether the hair ends up on your clothes, rugs, upholstery, or in dust bunnies under the furniture, shedding seems to be a fact of life when you share your home with an animal companion.
In most cases, some shedding is unavoidable, and one of the prices most of us willingly pay for the joy and love our companion animals give us. But shedding shouldn’t be so prolific that it makes a mess of your house and becomes a nuisance and a problem. Some breeds are going to shed more than others, but if your dog or cat seems to be losing more hair than you can cope with, it’s time to act. Luckily, there are several things you can do to minimize shedding and make your life easier.
1. Has he had a checkup?
One of the first things to do is get your animal checked by a vet. “Excessive shedding can be an early sign of illness,” says veterinarian Dr. Marcia Martin. “This is the type of symptom a good holistic vet will use to evaluate the health of an animal long before there are detectable changes in the lab work. I recommend a good physical exam and basic blood work to rule out an underlying disease such as diabetes, liver, kidney or thyroid disease.”
2. What’s he eating?
Shedding can indicate poor coat or skin health, and that can signal a dietary problem. “Excessive shedding may indicate a less than optimal diet,” says Dr. Martin. “Eliminate poor quality commercial kibble and change to a premium holistic canned or raw food.”
Make sure the food is made from ingredients that are as natural as possible, and that don’t include artificial preservatives and coloring. These additives can cause allergic reactions that may manifest as skin problems and exacerbate shedding. Wheat, soy and corn can also contribute to allergies so look for foods that eliminate or minimize these grains. Even beef can cause allergies in some dogs, so you might want to try introducing your companion to some alternative protein sources, such as bison or venison, and see how that affects his skin and coat. Some premium pet food companies make diets that are especially formulated for animals with allergies.
Supplementing your dog or cat’s diet with essential fatty acids is also a smart move. The Omega-3s found in fish and lax oils are especially good for an animal’s coat and help prevent dry skin, flakiness, itchiness and shedding. Consider adding a high quality fish oil to your companion’s food. You can buy fish oil supplements formulated especially for dogs and cats at holistic pet food stores.
3. Are you grooming him?
Regular grooming is one of the best ways to cut down on shedding. Invest in a good quality comb and brush and get into the habit of grooming your companion every few days, if not every day.
A slicker brush can help rid the coat of excess undercoat and mats. I ind it works best for Robin, while an ordinary pin brush is fine for our other cat Renny, who sheds very little. A lot of people think because cats groom themselves, they don’t need to be brushed. But a cat’s tongue can only remove so much hair, especially if you have a long-haired feline, or an older or arthritic kitty who isn’t as supple as she used to be. Regularly brushing your cat, whether she has a short or long coat, not only means less fur on your sofa or dress pants, but is also an important factor in preventing hairballs.
Have you ever considered vacuuming the loose hair from your animal? Believe it or not, some animals love it. We once had a dog and a cat who both adored being vacuumed. On the other hand, Robin is nervous of the vacuum so we don’t take it near him. Never force the vacuum on an animal who’s scared of it; you’ll only stress him out and create a negative association with being groomed that might extend to being brushed as well. If your animal enjoys the vacuum, give it a try – but be very careful to keep the tube away from his head and face.
Bathing is another good way to minimize shedding. Most dogs and even some cats come to tolerate or even enjoy being bathed. Just be sure to use a gentle, natural shampoo without harsh cleansers that can dry out the hair and skin and may ultimately make the shedding worse.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to groom your own animal, think about taking him to a professional groomer who uses natural shampoos and conditioners.
4. Is he stressed?
Have you ever noticed that your animal’s hair really seems to fly when he’s excited, scared or agitated? “Many animals will shed in response to excess stress,” says Dr. Martin. Take note of your dog or cat’s sources of stress and try to get rid of or reduce them. For example, if your animal gets nervous or overly excited with visitors, provide him with a quiet place to retreat to when people come to the door. “Products like Bach flower remedies, or Feliway diffusers for cats, can help animals handle emotional stressors in a healthier manner,” adds Dr. Martin. LifeFORCE Stress Relief Spray for Pets is another simple yet effective option.
Give these four suggestions a try and you’ll see a decrease in the hair and fur clinging to your upholstery and clothing. We could all do with less housework in our lives (right?) and best of all, you’ll be helping your dog or cat feel happier and more comfortable.
If you’ve ever tried to clean dog or cat hair off an armchair, car seat, or your best coat, you know it can be frustrating, if not impossible. Here are some tips to make the job easier.
• Vet’s Best recommends removing hair from upholstery, car seats and clothing as soon as possible, since newly shed hair is easier to get rid of than hair that has had a chance to work its way into the fabric weave.
• Hardware and pet supply stores carry handheld sticky rollers that are especially designed to pick up lint, dust and animal hair.
• Lint brushes (above) feature a napped surface that also picks up animal hair. Just remember to stroke in one direction only, or the nap will flatten out and redistribute the hair over the fabric.
• StickySheets is a product especially designed for removing animal hair from upholstery and rugs. It’s like a giant piece of sticky tape that you place over your chair cushions or rug; just press it against the fabric, peel it off, and the animal hair comes with it.
• Put on a dampened (not wet) rubber or gardening glove with a raised grip and run it over the fabric, using short strokes in the one direction to scrape up the hair. You can also use your bare hand, again dampened. The hair will roll up onto your hand or glove in a clump that can be picked off and disposed of. A dampened (not soaked) sponge works in a similar way.
• Here’s a novel idea – blow up a balloon and rub it over the fabric. The static will pick up the hair.