D: I don't know, Yaël. I vacuum and I vacuum, and my darned cat just keeps shedding winter, spring, summer, and fall. It just doesn't make sense. I thought a cat's fur was supposed to insulate it from the cold.
Y: Well, you're definitely right about that. Cats' fur not only insulates them, but also provides a barrier against physical and chemical damage to the skin, and protects them from harmful sunlight.
D: Yeah, yeah, and cats can't take off their fur the way people take off their coats and so they need to shed. Still, I thought the shedding was supposed to be seasonal.
Y: Actually, shedding is influenced by everything from genetics to nutrition to environmental temperature. But research has shown that the main factor that determines when a cat sheds is the amount of sunlight outside. Changes in sunlight cause the cat's brain to signal its hair follicles to respond appropriately. When there's less sunlight, cats start growing short, fluffy secondary hairs whose job is to provide insulation. And when there's more sunlight, cats start shedding.
D: Well, no one clued my cat in about that. My cat sheds year round and all over my couch.
Y: It's an indoor cat, right?
D: Yeah. So?
Y: Indoor cats are exposed to less natural sunlight and more artificial light, and so their bodies lose track of seasonal changes, and they just shed pretty constantly year round.
D: Oh no! So there's nothing I can do?
Y: Well, good nutrition, lots of exercise, and plenty of grooming can help keep your cat healthy and happy, but the thing is, shedding is a natural part of the hair life cycle, and you're basically just going to have to learn to live with it.