The Difference between Cat Fur and Cat Hair

Cat fur serves as protective cover against environmental hazards and allergens. It also protects the cat from harsh sun rays. Although several pet owners and vets use the term cat fur or cat hair interchangeably, there are certain differences between the function of fur and the presence of hair around the cat’s body.

Varying Cat Breeds

The length of fur on the cat’s body is genetically determined. Cats can be either short haired breeds, long haired breeds or hairless breeds. Even hairless breeds have a fine layer of hair that covers the entire body. In addition to the length of hair, the volume of hair also determines a double coated or triple coated pet.

Difference between Cat Fur and Cat Hair

The difference between cat fur and cat hair usually stems from its usage. Thick hair or long hair is generally referred to as a 'fur coat'. The term 'cat hair' is commonly used for pets that have sparse or thin hair covering the entire body. Pet owners formerly believed that hair continues growing without stopping at a specific length, while cat fur generally reaches a specific length, after which it doesn’t grow any longer. Cats genetically predisposed to have short hair don’t grow into long haired pets or vice versa. Cats may, however, lose their thick coats due to underlying disease or skin infections.

Types and Function of Cat Hair:

  • Awn hair
  • Down hair
  • Guard Hair
  • Whiskers

Awn Hair

Awn hair is short hair that’s present just beneath the top coat of hair in cats. Awn hair is short, thick and bristly in nature. It forms a protective layer to the cat's down hair and has certain sensory functions. The length of awn hair is determined by the cat’s breed.

Down Hair

Down hair is the thin and fine hair that’s necessary to protect the pet from cold. It forms an insulating layer around the cat’s body. It’s important to groom pets regularly, since down hair is prone to crimping or hair matting.

Guard Hair

Guard hair is generally the top coat of cat hair. The hair is long in appearance and determines the cat’s color. Guard hair is necessary to protect the pet from environmental contaminants.


Cat whiskers are present on the cat's chin, eyes and cheeks. Whiskers are also present on the front and back legs of the pet. They serve as a sensory aid to help the cat survive in the environment. Cats that live in the wild use their whiskers to guide them when attacking prey.

Protecting Cat Hair

Irrespective of the breed, cat fur serves an important bodily function and should be maintained to keep pets healthy. Although cats don’t need to be bathed as often as other pets, it’s best to bathe them occasionally and follow with regular grooming procedures. A wide-toothed comb is suited to long haired pets, because it penetrates deeper and helps prevent hair matting. In addition to hair combing, cats should be examined for flea infections, as these can lead to hair loss and skin inflammation. Pets with long coats also suffer from hairballs. Regular combing eliminates loose or dead hair and prevents pets from excessive self-grooming.

Although most cats are capable of keeping themselves clean, owners should perform routine grooming procedures to determine skin conditions or flea infections and seek medical treatment in time.