The Premier Online Magazine devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats
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The Premier Online Magazine
devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

Close this search box.


The Premier Online Magazine devoted
to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

Close this search box.

Hair Apparent

Cat breeders care about their cat’s coats. Some people might even say cat exhibitors can be obsessive about their cat’s hair. Is it healthy? Is it shiny? Is it full enough? Does it have snap? Is it dry? Is it greasy? Is it falling out? Is it thinning? Yet despite all this concern, what do we actually know about cat hair other then it sticks all over our clothes and makes fur bunnies under the bed? 

Does a cat have different kinds of hair? Why does a cat have different kinds of hair? Which type of hair is the most important? Why do different breeds of cats have different hair? These are all good questions. Now for some answers. Most cats have four basic types of hair:

  • Guard Hairs
  • Awn Hairs
  • Down Hairs
  • Vibrissae

Guard Hairs

The guard hairs are the most obvious hairs on your cat and make up most of the outer topcoat. They are straight, slender and taper toward the tip. They are longer and thicker than either the down or awn hairs. They protect the underfur from the outside elements and act as a waterproof outer “jacket”. The cuticles on these hairs have microscopically small barbs that are very rough. This is the main reason cat hair sticks to clothing.

Awn Hairs

The awn hairs are the hairs that make up the “middle” coat of the cat. These “intermediate-size” hairs have broken or cracked cuticles that are rough and are still part of the primary coat of the cat. Their purpose is twofold: They help to insulate the cat and they protect the down hairs underneath.

Down Hairs

The down hairs are the hairs closest to the skin and form the “secondary” or undercoat of your cat. They are the shortest, finest and softest hairs on the cat. Just like the down in your goose feather comforter, the down hairs on your cat help to keep it warm. While the hairs appear straight to the naked eye, when viewed under a microscope, the down have even crimps or waves that trap air and make them such good insulators.


The vibrissae are specialized thicker hairs that are greatly enlarged and very sensitive to touch. The most apparent vibrissae hairs on your cat are the whiskers. The whiskers on its muzzle play an especially highly developed tactile role. Vibrissae hairs are also found on the upper lips, the cheeks, above the eyes, and on the wrists of the forelegs.

Distribution of Hair Types

The down hairs are by far the most numerous of all the types of hairs on your cat. On average, for every 1000 down hairs, there are about 300 awn hairs, and 20 guard hairs.

Breed Differences

While most cats have a similar number of vibrissae hair, there is a wide range of variation in the the size, shape and distribution of the other three types of hairs among the different breeds of cats. For instance, Persians have guard hairs that are exaggerated in length. Wire-haired cats have all three hair types, but all three are short and curly. Cornish Rex cats have no guard hairs at all. And of course, within a breed there is a wide range of individual difference in hair type and distribution.

Why Does Cat Hair Cling To Clothes?

The guard hairs have microscopically small barbs. The awn hairs have cracked cuticles that are rough and aid in clinging to clothes. And as if that wasn’t enough, cat’s hair is also very electrostatic. Your clothes don’t stand a chance.

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“What greater gift than the love of a cat?”
*Charles Dickens (Author, The Christmas Carol)