What purpose does a down coat serve on a cat?

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A cat’s fur is comprised of three distinct layers, starting with the outer guard hairs, which are long and pointed; a secondary awn layer, which is more coarse; and the down layer against the skin. This wavy, dense undercoat is essentially thermal in nature. In fact, it’s not a bad comparison to think of this as a cat’s winter underwear.

The down coat protects the cat from the cold, and is usually shed in the spring months in outdoor cats, or those animals that spend some of their time outside. Inside cats can react to the seasons, but in most cases they shed to some degree year round. Most of the shed hair comes from this bottommost layer.

Because the down hair is so fine, it also represents the biggest challenge in grooming. The down can easily become tangled with the longer hairs in the upper level of the fur causing painful mats. Because the base of these tangles sits against the skin, they should be worked out of the down by hand, never pulled or tugged with a brush.

Special implements are available to groom through the layers of the coat into the down, in particular steel toothed combs and undercoat rakes. Unless excess, dead hair is removed from this layer, especially in long-haired breeds, the chance of tangling and matting is much greater.

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