What is an outer coat?

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With the exception of the short, curly-haired Cornish Rex breed, all cats actually have a double coat that is made up of a soft, dense undercoat, and longer, single guard hairs that are often called the “outer coat.”

Since guard hairs have individual follicles, these are, for the most part, the stray cat hairs people find on their dark suit just before they walk into a meeting. The softer, downier “clumps” or “tufts” of fur that appear around the house are from the undercoat.

In order to properly brush a cat, dead hair should be removed from both layers. Plain brushes tend to do a good job with the longer, coarser outer coat, but wire brushes or “rakes” are necessary to reach the softer, more dense undercoat.

Regardless, it’s important never to tug or pull at a cat’s fur while brushing or he will become resistant to this necessary maintenance chore. Brushing will not only cut down on the amount of hair around the house, it also minimizes painful matting of the coat, and decreases the number of hairball regurgitations the animal — and you — suffer.

Mats are tangles in the fur that occur when the longer hairs of the outer coat become densely interwoven with the undercoat in a thick mass. The whole lies close to the cat’s delicate skin and should never be cut away for fear of harming him.

When brushing, it is extremely important to stop every few strokes to remove the hair accumulated in the brush or comb. Failure to do so will actually encourage rather than prevent matting.

Cats who spend some or all of their time outside will shed on a seasonal basis, but indoor cats and some particular breeds shed year round, particularly from the more exposed outer coat.

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