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5 Reasons For An Unhealthy Cat Coat And Tips On How To Help

5 Reasons For An Unhealthy Cat Coat And Tips On How To Help

A cat’s fur is one of its most beautiful features. It’s so hard to resist trying to pet a cat when you see its shiny, smooth, and soft coat.

However, many cats will face some kind of issues causing their coat to look bad. Some of them will have a dry coat, some will face serious hair loss, while others will manifest a severely matted coat.

What are the main causes of an unhealthy cat coat? There are five of them and we will list them in this text.

A healthy cat coat isn’t just about appearance, but it’s also crucial for a cat’s well-being in general.

Let’s look at these causes of coat problems in felines and see what are the best ways to solve them.

1. Overbathing

A cat in a bathtub
Source: @bathingcats

I believe all of you do your best to take good care of your cats. You provide them with a quality diet, and fine entertainment, and shower them with your attention.

Some of you could also think that the regular care routine for your feline friend should include bathing.

This is exactly the opposite of the truth. Your cat certainly spends most of the day grooming itself.

If everything is okay with it, its grooming routine should be just enough to keep its fur in the perfect shape.

In case you bathe your cat too often, you can actually cause its fur to look unhealthy and separated.

Frequent baths strip away the natural oil from a cat’s fur, causing skin irritation and making it look dull and dry.

How To Help?

You shouldn’t bathe your cat at all, provided, of course, that there is no medical need to do this. Furthermore, this mostly applies to indoor cats who are not exposed to dirt and accidents as their outdoor counterparts.

If your cat is healthy, young, and capable of grooming, just let it do its thing! You can brush in accordance with the breed standard recommendation and this should be everything you do.

Felines are exceptional groomers and no human will do a good job of taking care of their fur as they do by themselves.

2. Stress And Anxiety

A cat with bald spots
Source: @kittenxlady

Bald spots on a cat’s coat can indicate that it’s facing a stress and anxiety problem.

How are these two related? As Aldergrove Animal Clinic explains, stress can influence a cat’s grooming habits. Many of them start to groom themselves excessively to release endorphins in their brain in an attempt to make them feel better without anyone’s help.

This excessive grooming leads to hair loss. Noticing bald patches on your cat’s fur is certainly terrifying. 

Stress and anxiety are serious emotions in a cat that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are various causes of these emotions, with the most common being the following:

• A change in a cat’s surroundings

• A conflict with another cat

• Loud noises

• Veterinary visits

• Strangers approaching them

• New surroundings

How To Help?

You need to react as soon as you notice coat changes in your cat.

The crucial thing here is to recognize the root cause of stress and eliminate it from your cat’s surroundings.

In case you’re unable to do this on your own, you should consult a veterinarian. The sooner you do this, the better it will be for your cat’s fur, as well as for its mental state and health.

3. Age

Older cats are likely to have coats that appear unkempt, matted, and unhealthy. 

While young cats are adept at grooming, they often lose this ability as they age. Simply, older felines have difficulty moving and could also face additional health problems.

This can lead to them losing the desire to keep their coats neat as they used to do. Some may still try to groom themselves, but will not be successful.

How To Help?

This is a type of situation where you should step in and help your cat with grooming.

You should brush its fur regularly, especially if your cat’s fur is long, since long-haired cats are prone to matting.

You can use either a slicker brush or a bristle brush to keep your cat’s fur healthy and mats-free.

4. Diet

A healthy cat’s coat should be shiny and smooth.

To achieve and maintain a fur like this, a cat’s diet is a crucial factor. A cat that has a dry and dull coat and sheds excessively likely lacks essential nutrients in its diet.

A low-quality nutrition can quickly lead to weak and brittle fur in your cat. I hope you’re all aware of just how a quality diet is important for a cat’s coat as well as all other aspects of its health.

How To Help?

Your cat’s diet depends on factors such as its age, health status, and energy level.

However, as VCA Animal Hospitals suggests, cats need a properly balanced diet of high-quality digestible proteins, carbs, fats, minerals, and vitamins to maintain healthy skin and hair.

For your cat’s coat to stay shiny, its diet should be based on high protein levels.

Animal protein and vitamins A, B, D, and E are crucial to reduce a cat’s shedding levels. Also, a food rich in omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for a healthy coat. These fatty acids are found in food like tuna and salmon.

5. Health Issues

In many cases, a specific health problem can cause an unhealthy cat coat.

This can include an oily coat, a dry coat, hair loss, tangles in a cat’s fur, and so on. Let’s look at some of the most common health issues that cause a cat’s coat to start looking bad.


Unfortunately, obesity is a fairly common problem among cats of all ages nowadays. Many felines become fat due to overfeeding and lack of exercise.

Since they struggle with excess weight, they will have problems such as difficulty moving. Obesity will also make grooming a hard task for them. They will simply have trouble reaching certain parts of their body.

Thanks to this, fat cats will typically manifest a dull and unhealthy coat.

How To Help?

Obesity is another situation where you’ll need to help your cat with grooming.

If you have normally brushed your cat once a week, you should start doing it every day to make its coat look good.

Of course, the more important thing here is to put your pet back on the right weight again. This will include decreasing the amount of daily calorie intake, as well as encouraging it to exercise regularly.

It’s also possible that your cat will need a complete change of diet. This will include consultation with a veterinarian.


Another health problem that can cause your cat’s fur to look bad is allergies.

Cats can be allergic to certain food ingredients and can have environmental allergies to dust, dander, pollen, grass, and so on.

According to PetMD, allergies cause profound itching and pain in cats. 

Also, they can result in a change in the normal production of skin oils in a cat’s coat. This results in a dull coat and excessive shedding in cats.

Besides itching, other common signs of allergies in cats are ulcers and open sores, swollen paws, sneezing, runny eyes, and gastrointestinal problems.

How To Help?

Many cats live normally with allergies, once they get an appropriate treatment.

There are a couple of ways to treat this cause of an unhealthy coat in cats. Veterinarians may prescribe anti-inflammatory topicals and hypoallergenic shampoos.

Also, oral antibiotics and corticosteroid therapy are common ways to treat allergies in cats.

It’s important to take your cat for an observation as soon as you notice potential allergy symptoms in it.


Hyperthyroidism is a condition caused by an increase in the production of thyroid hormones in cats. Most commonly, this health problem is caused by mostly benign tumors. 

Some typical signs of hyperthyroidism are increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, and weight loss at the same time.

Also, cats with this condition usually manifest an unkempt coat that appears matted or greasy.

How To Help?

Hyperthyroidism can be treated with antithyroid drugs to reduce the production of thyroid hormone.

Veterinarians sometimes also prescribe radioactive iodine therapy. Surgery is another option and includes the removal of the thyroid gland in a cat.

Additionally, dietary therapy can be prescribed for cats with hyperthyroidism. This nutritional change involves limiting the intake of iodine.

Parasite Infections

A dull coat can also indicate that your cat has parasites. Together with this one, there are also other nonspecific symptoms, such as gastrointestinal problems, loss of appetite, dehydration, coughing, etc.

According to Tamara Libertad Iturbe Cossío and her associates [1] risk factors for this health problem are age, living with other species, outdoor access, and brushing frequency.

Lack of brushing can contribute to a parasite infection in felines. Young kittens are at higher risk of this infection since their immune systems aren’t well developed.

How To Help?

The treatment here will depend on the exact parasite that caused infection in your cat.

In general, the treatment can include intravenous fluids, antiparasitic medications, or an oral or injectable dewormer.

To keep your cat worms-free, clean its litter box and all other belongings regularly. Also, it would be good to restrict outdoor access, since cats outdoors are more exposed to parasitic infections.


I’m sure you’re all aware of typical signs of feline diabetes such as increased thirst and urination, as well as unexpected weight loss.

However, a poor, unkempt coat is also an important sign here. Kingsdale Animal Hospital explains that the skin of a cat with diabetes is starved of energy.

This can result in excessive flaking and dandruff in it. Also, cats with diabetes are less likely to want to groom themselves, resulting in a coat that looks unkempt.

How To Help?

Feline diabetes is treated with injectable insulin.

There isn’t a cure for this condition, but, with the right medications, regular exercise, and quality nutrition, your cat can still have a long and happy life.


A cat with skin condition
Source: Shutterstock

Seborrhea in cats is a skin disorder that causes an excessive amount of sebum. This disruption leads to scaly, flaky, and red skin in cats.

This condition is usually observed in the areas on a cat’s skin that have many sebaceous glands, such as the back, flanks, and face.

Also, cats with seborrhea may develop an unpleasant body odor. This condition can be related to underlying health problems, such as bacterial or fungal infections, parasites, or hormonal imbalances.

How To Help?

Veterinarians usually prescribe omega-3 fatty acids supplements, since this ingredient is beneficial for cats with skin and coat problems.

Also, corticosteroids and antibiotics can be prescribed to cats with seborrhea.

Another form of treatment is bathing a cat with anti-seborrheic shampoo.


Finally, arthritis can also negatively affect the appearance of your cat’s coat.

This condition involves inflammation of a cat’s joints and is mostly seen in older cats. Cats affected by arthritis typically experience difficulty getting up and down, may avoid jumping, and often exhibit sore or swollen joints.

Since arthritis causes a lot of pain for cats, they’re likely to show poor grooming habits, leading to a matted or dull coat.

How To Help?

Some cats get prescribed a specific diet to support their painful joints. Your veterinarian may also suggest pain medications and physical therapy.

Most severe cases of arthritis require surgery.

Your older cat with arthritis will need your help with grooming. Although it used to be an exceptional groomer, things have changed now, and your helpful hand is necessary in this situation.


A neat, smooth, and shiny cat coat is something we all enjoy to see.

However, certain situations can disrupt your cat’s fur, resulting in an unhealthy cat coat appearance.

This can happen due to overbathing, stress, older age, or a low-quality diet. Moreover, many health problems can cause your cat’s fur to look unkempt.

I suggest you check with your veterinarian as soon as you notice a poor-looking coat or your cat excessively scratching or licking it.

Finally, it’s clear that the state of your cat’s skin and coat can tell you a lot about its general health. 


[1] Iturbe Cossío TL, Montes Luna AD, Ruiz Mejia M, Flores Ortega A, Heredia Cárdenas R, Romero Núñez C. Risk factors associated with cat parasites in a feline medical center. JFMS Open Rep. 2021 Aug 18;7(2):20551169211033183. DOI, Retrieved November 27, 2023.

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