Types of Cat Fur - Cat Info Detective

Types of Cat Fur

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Welcome pretty kitties! Skye Blake here to help you discover the different types of cat fur and why that’s important to know.

Let’s discover more…

paw prints coming in from a distance

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a vet or behaviorist) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.

Sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.

Types of Cat Fur

Longhaired ginger, orange tabby cat in yard looking into distance, fur

Cat fur and hair are the same thing…

“Hair” is usually used to describe individual hairs, while fur refers to a cat’s entire coat, but both words are interchanged frequently.

Cat hair is made of the protein keratin… just like human hair, nails, and horse hooves.

Guard Hairs

grey cat sitting staring

Guard hairs are the longer and stiffer type of fur, found over or mixed with the awn hairs as part of a cat’s topcoat.

They determine the main color of the cat and help keep a cat dry because they shed water.

Awn Hairs

tan tabby cat lying on pillow, fur

Awn hairs are also part of the topcoat and are most of what you see when looking at a cat’s fur.

They’re finer than guard hairs but coarser than the undercoat and usually not as long as guard hairs.

Awn fur help protect a cat from cold, water, sun, dirt, and radiation. Hairless cats don’t have this protection.

siberian cat looking up

When a cat has a triple coat, the awn hairs are considered the second layer, with guard hairs as the topcoat and downy fur as the undercoat.

There’s some disagreement about whether the awn hairs are actually a separate coat.

If you have a purebred cat, you can check the breed standards for info about her coat… and anything else you want to know.

white cat stretching front legs, fur

TICA and CFA are the main registries in North America and have the breed standards.

Most mixed breed cats have a double coat with the guard and awn hairs as one main overcoat.

Undercoat

tuxedo kitten showing tummy, napping, undercoat, fur

The undercoat is the downy, soft, fluffy hair that helps keep a cat warm.

It must be carefully brushed and detangled frequently to prevent painful mats, especially tightly curled or long hair.

This undercoat is there as insulation and to help regulate body temperature… keeping a cat warm in cold weather.

It also gives added protection from predators, scratches, bumps, and punctures.

Vellus

Sphynx cat in window

Some breeds are called “hairless” but have very thin fine down called “vellus”, similar to baby hair.

For example, Sphynx cats can range from almost completely bald to having a noticeable coat of vellus.

Vibrissae (Whiskers)

whiskers, tabby cat

Whiskers (“vibrissae”) are long, tough, tactile hairs on a cat’s face and body.

Their purpose is to help cats navigate their world, especially in darkness.

They’re very sensitive and can detect objects, people, and animals, including prey.

dark tabby kitten, white whiskers

Whiskers on a cat’s face move according to how relaxed, alert or alarmed he is, helping people and other cats know their mood.

They can occasionally shed but not all at once and should NEVER be cut.

Breeds With Various Coats

tabby cat lying down with feather toy in front

Most breeds have double coats, but not all… and the hair being long or short doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Some longhaired breeds have a single coat… some double coated cats have short hair.

Mixed breeds should be checked individually to accurately determine the type of coat.

Tonkinese cat sitting on small sofa in yard

To find out if your cat has a double or single coat, feel the fur down to the skin.

A single coat will have only guard or awn hair and a double coat will have those plus a thicker, dense, downy layer underneath.

Hairless

sphynx cat under green blanket

Hairless cats like Sphynx are indoor-only cats because they can’t regulate their body temperature well enough for hot and cold environments.

They don’t need normal brushing but do require extra grooming care, including baths, to keep their skin healthy.

Discover more about bathing at “How to Groom a Cat“.

Hairless Breeds
Sphynx cat beside mirror yawning
  • Sphynx & Hybrids
  • Bambino
  • Donskoy
Sphynx cat feet
  • Dwelf
  • Elf
  • Lykoi – These cats aren’t always hairless
sphynx kitten, hairless
  • Minskin
  • Peterbald
  • Ukranian Levkoy

Single Coat

ragdoll cat wearing a collar, double coat

Cats with single coats have the outer guard/awn hair… no layer of soft downy undercoat.

A single coat sheds less and requires less brushing, although it’s still best to brush once once a week and check their skin.

They rarely need baths but do need sufficiently warm temperatures since they don’t have the extra insulating layer.

Single Coat Breeds
siamese kitten looking at camera
  • Balinese
  • Javanese
  • Siamese
abyssinian cats sitting together, single coat
  • Abyssinian
  • Ragdoll

Double Coat

brown tabby cat alert, watching, double coat

Most cats have double coats… an undercoat topped by a mixture of awn and guard hairs.

Double coated cats should be brushed or combed at least 2-3 times a week… longhaired coats daily.

Tuxedo kitten with mouth wide open, short fur

Pay attention to carefully removing small knots and tangles to prevent mats.

Double coats shed more than single coats simply because there’s a lot more fur and routine brushing cuts down the amount of fur left around the house.

Double Coat Breeds
cat licking paw for grooming, double coat
  • Most mixed breeds
  • Purebred cats not listed as hairless, single, or triple coated, such as…
  • Norwegian Forest Cat
woman touching grey cat's ear, grooming
  • Scottish Fold
  • Maine Coon
  • Persian
2 white cats sleeping next to each other on a mat
  • Manx
  • Himalayan
  • American Shorthair

Triple Coat

siberian cat in snow, triple coat, fur

The Siberian (a.k.a., Siberian Forest Cat) has a thick, long, amazing triple coat, with all three types of fur.

It has long guard hairs on the outside, awn hairs underneath, and a shorter, downy undercoat beneath both for extra warmth.

The Siberian cat, in its natural habitat, needs this type of fur coat to survive the harsh winters of Siberia, Russia.

siberian cat in grass

Surprisingly, this coat doesn’t easily get matted… but it does shed a lot, especially when seasons change from cold to hot.

Be sure you and others in your home are tolerant of cat fur on furniture and elsewhere!

Daily brushing will reduce shedding and hairballs, while being a relaxing activity for you both.

Curly/Wired/Crimped

curly coated rex cat sitting, grey, gold

Crimped, wired, or curly cat fur is a genetic mutation, commonly called the “rex mutation”.

There are various mutations of this fur, which are complex and produce different hair colors, lengths, and types of curls.

All curly coated cats have a fine undercoat and no overcoat.

black, white rex kitten

Their coat can’t absorb skin oils like other coats, leaving it greasy or waxy and the cat’s normal grooming habits can’t eliminate it.

When this happens, a bath is important, usually once a month.

Use mild shampoo made specifically for cats to preserve the delicate pH balance of their skin.

If your cat isn’t used to baths, you can use gentle, positive training methods to help him accept them.

Selkirk Rex & LaPerm
rex kitten, curly coat

Selkirk Rex and LaPerm are cats with a dense and very curly type of fur.

While they’re low maintenance, these coats must be detangled to prevent painful mats, bald spots, itchiness, and allergies.

They need to be gently combed and brushed about twice a week, especially in the neck, legs, paws, and stomach area.

Use a slicker brush or grooming mitt to gently brush in the direction the hair grows.

Cornish & Devon Rex
rex cat curly fur

Cornish and Devon Rex cats have looser curls that don’t mat as often, so they don’t need as much attention… but can still need baths.

Overgrooming by either you or the cat can cause bald spots on any rex, because the hair follicles are fragile.

You should still gently brush them occasionally and check their skin while petting for any signs of overgrooming.

Discover more about overgrooming at “Cat Grooming Behavior & Training“.

Curly-Coated Breeds
rex cat tan curious, outside

Some of these breeds are recognized by official organizations like TICA and CFA, but others are not yet fully accepted.

  • Devon Rex
  • Cornish Rex
tan rex cat sitting on table
  • Selkirk Rex
  • Tennessee Rex
  • German Rex
black, white rex kitten, curly coat
  • Tasman Rex
  • Ural Rex
  • LaPerm
  • Skookum

Moving Forward

cartoon signpost, this way, that way, decision

Taking this info about breeds and types of cat fur, you can determine which brushes, combs, and other grooming tools will work best for your cat.

Discover more at “How to Brush a Cat” and “How to Groom a Cat“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

10 Best Cat Breeds for People With Allergies“, by Franny Syufy, reviewed by Alycia Washington, updated on 03/27/23

“77 Things to Know Before Getting a Cat” by Susan M. Ewing, Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 2018, pp. 97-101

A-H

Cats With Curly Hair: 10 Breeds You Need to Know“, by MrBossCat Team, updated on August 28, 2021 

Cats with Undercoats: What It Is & Care Tips“, by MrBossCat Team, updated on August 29, 2022 

“Glamour Puss”, Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 237-252

How to Groom A Devon Rex Cat” by Pets Leaf Team, reviewed by Grooming Expert: Clarissa Stevenson, CFMG

How To Tell If Your Cat Has A Double Coat In 4 Simple Steps” by Dr. Emma Chandley, BVETMED, PGCERTSAS, MRCVS, Cats.com, updated March 1, 2023

How to Tell if Your Cat Has a Double Coat: 3 Expert Tips” by Rachael Gerkensmeyer, Hepper, updated on October 1, 2023

I-T

Ragdoll: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care” by Kayla Fratt, reviewed by Amy Fox, updated on 11/07/23

The Science Behind What Your Cat’s Whiskers Do“, Pet Wellbeing

Siberian Cat“, Cats.com

Siberian Cat: Breed Profile, Characteristics, & Care“, by Jackie Brown, The Spruce Pets, updated on 08/23/23, fact checked by Emily Estep

U-Z

UNCOVER THE FASCINATING WORLD OF CAT HAIR THROUGH A MICROSCOPE” by Valery Johnson, All Optica, updated on June 3, 2023 

“The Well-Groomed Feline”, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting & Owning a Cat, pp. 83-4

What breed of cats have a double coat?” by Michele B. Snyder, 21Cats

What Is the Difference Between Cat Hair and Fur?” by Franny Syufy, The Spruce Pets, updated on 03/28/22, reviewed by Monica Tarantino, DVM

What Temperature Do Cats Like? Vet-Reviewed Climate Tips & FAQ” by Brooke Billingsley, Catster™, updated December 20, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

Why Not to Shave Double Coats” by Cheryl Maibusch, The Cat Groomer®, September 23, 2020

Updated April 12, 2024

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