Why Are Cats So Soft?


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If you have a cat waiting for you at home then you know that there’s nothing better than coming back and plunging your whole face in their soft fluffiness and silky furriness, especially the belly area!

I can spend hours stroking my feline overlord, to the point where touching their soft fur transforms into a meditating repetitiveness.

So, why are cats so soft?

The softness and silkiness of a cat’s fur depend on their breed, their genetics, the type of fur they have, and how nutritional is their diet. Your cat’s grooming habits can also affect how healthy and soft their coat is, as well as their age.

If you want to know more about your kitty’s soft fur and how they achieve this silky effect, then keep on reading!

Why Are Cats So Soft?

When it comes to their fur, I’m sure our cats have a few beauty secrets under their furry sleeve, being the mysterious creatures that they are. With a few treats, a lengthy play session, and extensive cuddles my cat was ready to spill all the beans, and I’m here to share his silky knowledge!

Reason 1: They Have A Double Coat

The main reason your kitty’s fur is soft to the touch has to do with the fact that there’s more than one layer to it. Most cats have an undercoat, also known as down hair, which is much shorter, fluffier, and help keep felines warm during the cold months. Since there’s an undercoat then you guessed it right, there’s also an outer coat or also called guard hair.

This top layer has most of the pigment and markings, the hair is usually coarser compared to the undercoat, and it protects cats from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and it repels water.

There’s also a third layer called the awn hair. This layer is the middleman between the outer and undercoat. Again, it helps the outer coat do a better job at protecting the skin and repel the water, while it also helps the undercoat to keep the cat warm, a process called thermoregulation, “during which your cat will move their hair follicles to either bring them closer together when they’re cold or further apart when they’re hot.”

You might notice that your kitty is especially soft during winter and that’s because the soft and fluffy undercoat is at its thickest. On the other hand, when cats start to shed to prepare themselves for the hot summer, you might find their fur coarser, and less fluffy looking.

Reason 2: It’s Their Genetics

While the layers of fur our kitties have play a major role in why they are so soft, we also need to consider the genetics of each individual cat. Some cats have naturally softer fur than others, their undercoat might be denser because they’re used to leaving in colder climates, or they simply inherited the softness of their parents.

Other cats on the other hand might have a shaggier and harsher coat and there’s nothing wrong with that, the rugged coat is simply a natural part of who they are. Certain breeds are known for their ultra-fluffy coat like the Ragdoll Cat for example, as you can witness yourself in the video below.

The American Wirehair, on the other hand, has a coat that’s wiry, as well as thick, hard and springy. You need to also consider the type of fur your kitty has; longhaired cats usually are softer while shorthaired cats are not always able to reach such fluffy potential.

If you want to find out more about your cat’s genetics then you could try a DNA or ancestry test. It should tell you about your cat’s lineage which can explain a lot about where they got their lush coat from.

Reason 3: To Protect The Skin

As I’ve mentioned at the very beginning your cat’s fur plays a major role in their survival. It protects their skin from the sun and the cold and the fluffier it is the better. A cat’s fur can also help them slip through tight spaces without getting snagged, as each hair movement will send signals through their skin, helping them maneuver their flexible body.

Let’s not forget that the denser the coat the more protected a cat is from scratches, creating a sort of barrier between him and whatever claw is about to get them.

While this protective function is great for a cat’s survival against predators, larger prey, or other cats, for humans it’s definitely an aww factor and it accelerates the desire to bury one’s face in the divine feline fluffiness!

Reason 4: Grooming

To have a soft fur one can’t simply be born with it, it also has to be maintained, something cats are true experts in. According to Dr. Wailani Sung, “cats typically spend anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of their time grooming themselves, and this is considered a normal behavior for them.”

If you find that your cat’s fur is really soft then they’re probably dedicating much of their time detangling the possible knots, removing the dirt, and distributing the natural oils from their skin throughout their fur using just their tongue. If your kitty’s fur looks rugged, then they might be neglecting their grooming duties.

Many cat parents, including myself, spend a few hours a week grooming our cats. It helps get rid of dead hair that is just clinging for dear life and makes the fur soft and shiny looking. So, if you’re not happy with how soft your cat’s fur looks, especially as they get older then consider investing in a good cat brush, creating a grooming schedule that suits you, your cat, and their fur type.

Reason 5: Good Nutrition

Genetics and grooming are some of the top secrets of the feline beauty routine, but food also plays a crucial role. A cat’s poor nutrition is reflected on their coat, making it dry, brittle, and with hairs that often times break off and fall out. “For healthy hair, skin, and body, your cat needs a diet with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, just like you do,” veterinarians state.

So, if you’re feeding your kitty a rich diet then you shouldn’t be too surprised at how soft their fur is! And if you’re having trouble finding the right food for your picky feline friend, check out our guide to the best tasting cat foods.

Why Are Some Cats Softer Than Other Cats?

You might have noticed that no matter how well you feed your feline companion, how often you groom them, their fur is never quite as soft. Or perhaps you’ve seen similar breeds or similar-looking cats sport different fur textures, one being soft the other shaggy. Well, as with most things in life there’s an explanation to this mystery!

Feral Cats Vs House Cats

Apart from the fact that all cats are unique, and their furs can differ, individual conditions play a crucial role in their appearance. The biggest difference in fur appearance can be spotted between feral or stray felines and cats that are indoor cats only.

Cats that have spent all their lives outside face a harsh reality where prey is scarce and even when they do get to eat it the food might be spoiled or lacking nutrition. Dehydration can also affect the softness of the fur’s texture and dim the natural shine, something many feral cats face since clean water sources are hard to find, especially in an urban setting.

While all cats groom themselves, even strays this task is far more difficult for this group of outcasts. With time the constant dust and dirt can be difficult to clean no matter how hard a stray kitty might try. Alertness and fear of predators can also affect how often or how long they spend grooming their coat which can lead to a stained coat that doesn’t look soft and most likely isn’t.

Housecats on the other hand are usually well taken care of. They have available food, they are regularly groomed and their owners might even give them an occasional bath. The love and care indoor cats get can greatly affect the look and softness of their fur, but house cats that are allowed to go outside might also feel less soft to the touch.

Outdoor cats can get messy and black cats that lay for hours in the sun can lose some of that fluffiness as their fur gets bleached and ends up looking brown.

At the end of the day, it’s important not to compare your cat’s fur to other cats, because they come in various degrees of softness and that’s part of their charm!

Why Are Cats Softer Than Dogs?

While many humans tend to claim that cats and dogs have nothing that connects them, they both share an ancestral similarity. They both belong to the Animalia kingdom, meaning that they give birth to pups and kittens and they breastfeed their offspring until they’re capable of consuming different food. They are also part of the Mammalia class, which means that they have fur on their skin that keeps them warm.

Of course, cats and dogs have somewhat different fur. Dogs have an undercoat for insulation and a top coat that helps repel water and shield from dirt, but unlike most cats, dogs don’t have the middle layer of awn hair and there are plenty of dog breeds that have a very short undercoat or none at all.

When it comes to softness the undercoat plays a major role that’s why cats tend to be plushier, but many dog breeds also have a coarser topcoat, and the texture is usually referred to as wire-haired. If the guard hairs on a dog’s coat are harsh then they’re also less flexible and when you pet them, they feel like a solid mass and it’s hard to move an individual section.

These dogs are definitely not soft to the touch, and whether they’re long or shorthaired doesn’t make a difference.

Dogs are also outdoor pets, and they tend to lead an active life in less than clean situations, having to rely on their owners when it comes to cleaning. Cats on the other hand spend hours on end grooming their fur and maintaining the natural softness, and in most cat breeds, it’s easy to run your fingers through their fur.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dog breeds out there with equally soft fur. These breeds are usually longhaired dogs with fluffy outer coats and wooly undercoats like the Samoyed, made of 100% pure white softness. Or the Pomeranians which are known for their plushy double coat and the list goes on.

Does Mood Affect A Cat’s Fur?

Cats may seem mysterious, or that they always have everything under control but looks can be deceiving. Contrary to popular belief our feline companions are emotional creatures and their environment as well as their owners can make them feel content, excited or anxious, and angry.

How happy a cat is will reflect on their behavior, if a once outgoing and active kitty becomes sad then they might go quiet, become lethargic, and avoidant. Their feeding patterns might change, they might develop unwanted litter box behaviors and they could neglect their grooming routine.

All that can reflect poorly on their coat, and even lead to extreme behaviors like over-grooming, also known as “psychogenic alopecia.” Veterinarian Dermatology Consultants state that “also known as self-trauma, psychogenic alopecia occurs when the cat pulls out so much hair that the coat gets thin and uneven or even bald. Psychogenic means that the problem begins in mental or emotional conflict.

So, your cat’s happiness or sadness can most definitely affect how their fur looks, and that’s why it’s important to pay attention to your kitty’s feelings!

Should I Be Worried If My Cat’s Fur Isn’t Soft?

Even with proper care, some cats won’t have super soft fur, and as long as they’re healthy, happy and you haven’t noticed any changes in their appetite or mood, then fur softness shouldn’t be on your mind. A cat’s fur can also change as they grow, some kittens might be very soft, but as adults, their coats become harsher and the other way around.

It’s also important to keep in mind that your cat’s coat will look different depending on the seasons. They tend to look fluffy during the winter, especially if they’re allowed outside, or you live somewhere where winters are really cold. During the summer my cats tend to look a bit shaggier and thinner as they lose a good portion of their undercoat.

Of course, if you notice your cat’s coat condition deteriorating, along with behaviors such as excessive grooming, scratching, and self-biting then you might be onto something. Allergies can be responsible for your cat’s bad coat appearance and lack of that soft lusciousness, as well as other skin conditions caused by parasites, like ticks, fleas, and ringworm.

While ringworm is more common in kittens and young cats with a weakened immune system, Dr. Adam Peterson points out that, “clinical signs of ringworm may include excessive shedding, broken hairs, patchy or circular areas of hair loss, dander, scabs, red bumps, and occasionally deep-seated nodules.”

If your kitty is older and you notice that their fur doesn’t look as shiny and healthy as it once was and it’s not soft to the touch, then it could be a medical condition like Hyperthyroidism. According to Cornell Veterinary, one of the most common symptoms is a cat that “appears unkempt, matted, or greasy.”

Coat changes are often observed in obese or senior cats that don’t have the flexibility to properly groom themselves. Possible dental disease can also turn grooming into a painful experience. The matting of your cat’s fur is something that definitely shouldn’t be left undiagnosed and untreated since it can lead to more serious issues, like excessive scratching from irritation, bacteria collection, and smell.

How Can I Make My Cat’s Fur Soft and Shiny?

There are three things a responsible cat owner can do to improve their cat’s coat, and if you’re already on top of this list then chances are your kitty is already as soft as they can get. But if you’re not sure what is keeping your cat from reaching his full soft potential then there are a few things you can work on.

Proper Nutrition

Of course, the best way to improve your cat’s coat and overall health is to invest in a good quality diet. Dr. Coates, while writing on PetMD, recommends that your cat’s food is 45% protein and between 25% to 35% fat. Veterinarians also state that “adding omega-3 fatty acids, linoleic acid, and zinc in combination increases coat gloss and decreases dry, flaky skin (dander).” Deficiency in Linoleic acid usually leads to dandruff, thin and discolored hair, and of course, excessive shedding. Beside Zinc, Biotin, and B vitamins are also responsible for a healthy coat.

Apart from a good diet, certain supplements can also improve your cat’s fur. Nordic naturals are definitely my top pick when it comes to adding more healthy fatty acids to my cats’ diet. You can check out the Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet on Amazon which comes in liquid form. Of course, before deciding on changing your kitty’s food you should consult your veterinarian, to see if your kitty is in need of supplements and which kind.

While good cat food should be your priority you should also make sure your cat is well hydrated if you want them to be healthy and achieve supreme coat softness. Jason Nicholas BVM says that “if your cat is eating wet food, which is highly recommended, they might get between 3.85–4.4 ounces of water from a single can (an average 5.5 once can).

That’s half their daily water right there.” Meanwhile don’t forget to keep their food and water bowls separate since cats will avoid drinking next to a food source, and try investing in a nice water fountain, that can turn hydration into a playful experience.

Regular Grooming

You can make your kitty’s fur softer from within, but you should also make sure that it’s maintained from the outside. Tammy Hunter, DVM explains that “all cats benefit from regular brushing to remove loose hairs and dead skin cells, to keep the coat free of dirt, debris, and external parasites, and to distribute natural oils along the hair shafts.

As your cat is getting older their fur maintenance will become more and more your responsibility. Overweight cats also need help reaching the back hair that can end up becoming greasy and matted.

Depending on your cat’s fur the grooming demands will differ, since short-haired cats and long-haired cats have different needs, with the latter needing regular grooming, which won’t only help them turn into a ball of soft fur but also reduce the overall shedding.

When it comes to brushes, my favorite is this self-cleaning brush from Hertzko on Amazon and with over 30,000 five-star reviews means that my cats aren’t the only ones enjoying it! In some cases, a bath can also help control the shedding, but it’s not something you ever want to do too often, and it should only be done with cat-friendly shampoos and never with baby shampoo.

A Healthy and Happy Environment

Mood, as we talked about, can most definitely affect your cat’s coat, and turn it from soft and shiny to dull and ragged. Feline experts state that cat owners need to provide the right environment to their cats if we want them to be happy. Nutritious food, plenty of water sources, and a clean litter box are a good start, but cats also need scratching posts to stretch their back muscles and trim their nails, and most importantly they need human attention and games!

If you want your kitty to feel happy, to feel soft, and look shiny then playing with them is important. According to veterinarians, “regular play can help keep your kitty active and help her maintain a healthy weight. Interactive play between you and your cat may also help prevent some behavior problems that can arise from boredom.” Such problems usually lead towards coping mechanisms like overgrooming, in which case you’ll notice patches of fur missing and an overall uneven look.

Most importantly, Dr. Jonathon Lidbury suggests that playing with our cats also benefits us, since cats “offer companionship, which is especially beneficial to people who are socially isolated, due to various reasons, but they also offer stress relief and light exercise if you play with them.”

Finally, when it comes to your kitty’s health, happiness and soft fur regular visits to the vet are a must. So, if you notice that your cat’s fur is looking dull, patchy or simply something doesn’t seem right, then before you decide to change anything in their diet, grooming routine, and environment, make sure you first get your vet’s opinion.

What Breeds Have The Softest Fur?

There are many things that determine how soft a cat’s fur is and there are definitely a few breeds, both long-haired and shorthaired that can claim the title of the softest furball. So, let’s see our top pick!

Maine Coon

One of the most impressive cats out there is the Maine Coon. They’re known for their gentle and curious character, for their giant size, and for their soft coat. They have this lion-like ruff around their neck which makes their chest look more puffed out and regal, which one can’t resist but touch, and if you have a Maine Coon then you know that their undercoat is the softest part!

Persian

One of the cutest and fluffiest cats out there is definitely the Persian. You won’t be able to resist touching a Persian cat’s flowing coat, but its cotton-like texture is not easy to maintain. According to veterinarians, “the coat must be groomed daily with a stainless-steel comb to remove mats, tangles, and loose hair.”

Birman

This cute kitty comes in myriads of pastel colors, blue, lilac, and cream to name a few, but most importantly the Birman cat’s coat is soft, silky, and lush! The Cat Fanciers Association state that unlike the Persian cat “Their coats do not mat, and they require a minimum amount of grooming.”

Who could possibly say no to such fluffiness?

Norwegian and Siberian Forest Cat

The Norwegian Forest cat has an incredible double coat, and while the overcoat is silky to the touch the undercoat is wooly. The Siberian cat is quite similar to the Norwegian forest cat, as it has a long, thick, and most importantly soft coat, and another thing they share is the shedding season when the coat mats shed in large clumps.

British Shorthair

The softness of a British shorthair is undeniable, but it’s also quite plush because of how dense it is. Their grooming needs might not be as demanding, but even shorthaired cats shed, that’s why brushing regularly can help maintain their silky softness!

You might not know what these cat parents are saying, but one thing is clear their British Shorthair kitties are too soft to handle!

Russian Blue

The Cat Fanciers Association speaks highly of the Russian Blue cat by saying that “one of the features of the short, silky, dense coat is the plush feel and the lack of constant shedding.” So, if you want to have a soft kitty without too much brushing the Russian blue is perfect for you!

Devon and Cornish Rex

There are many shorthaired cats that are soft and silky, but I thought it would be great to mention two extremely shorthaired cats at the end of this list. The Devon Rex has a coat that is wildly curly, but when you touch it, it can only be described as soft and suedelike.

Similarly, the Cornish Rex has a short coat, and it’s incredibly soft to the touch, and to be even more precise I’ll quote the CFA.“Prompting comparisons to cut velvet, karakul lamb, rabbit fur, or silk. In fact, nothing else feels exactly like a Cornish Rex coat.

Closing Thoughts

And there you have it! We’ve explored all the reasons why cats are such soft creatures, and which breeds are the true Royals when it comes to softness.

I think what we need to take away from all this is that all cats are different, and while we should feed them premium foods and care for their well-being, we shouldn’t expect them to have the softest fur, but to accept their fur as it is. Only this way will they keep a soft spot for us in their hearts!

Now tell us, is your cat soft to the touch, or are they naturally shaggy and raggedy?

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

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