Have you noticed that your cat’s fur isn’t looking as shiny and thick as it once did? Maybe there are white flakes on your cat’s skin, and their fur is dull or seems to be falling out. In many cases, issues like these can be directly traced back to your cat’s diet.
Your cat needs specific vitamins and nutrients to keep their coat in great condition. Below, we discuss what a cat's diet needs to contribute to healthy skin and fur. We'll give you some symptoms that may signal coat issues, discuss the best ingredients for healthy skin, and provide a few excellent cat foods that incorporate them.
Why It’s So Important for Your Cat To Have a Healthy Coat
Your cat’s coat is more important to their overall health than you might think. Their skin is the body's largest organ and is a critical defense mechanism for maintaining your cat's health. Similarly, fur also plays several roles, such as keeping your cat warm, collecting sensory data about the world around them, and helping them communicate (think about a cat’s hackles rising when it feels threatened).
What’s more, if your cat is experiencing issues like fur loss or itchiness, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Signs of a Poor Coat
How can you tell if your cat's coat is in poor condition? Here are a few of the biggest red flags for cat owners.
If you notice white flakes on your cat’s fur, skin, or bedding, your cat may have dandruff. Cat dandruff is most noticeable around your cat’s back or the base of their tail. Often, this dandruff is harmless. But sometimes, it can escalate into other symptoms, including red, inflamed skin, itching, and greasy fur.
Fur Loss or Thinning
Another sign of a poor coat is fur loss or thinning. You may see isolated bald patches or notice that you can see your cat's skin through their coat without separating the fur. To get the hair to grow back, you need to address the underlying cause of the hair loss — which we'll explore in greater detail below.
Dryness or Loss of Shine
Your cat’s fur may not look as bright and shiny as usual. Dry skin can show up in cats as bald spots, scabs, or scaly patches, most often found around the nose, tail, lower back, and ears. Excess scratching could also signal dry skin.
All cats get an itch once in a while. But if your cat is scratching itself much more than usual, this could be a sign of poor coat condition — and too much itching will only increase the irritation in the skin, making things even worse.
What Causes a Poor Coat Condition in Cats?
Several factors go into maintaining your cat’s healthy coat. When one or more of these things slip, the quality of your cat’s coat can suffer as a result.
A low-fat diet can harm your cat’s coat. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two high-fat nutrients that protect the skin and coat. Choosing a balanced diet with more fat may help improve the coat.
If your cat’s diet isn’t well-balanced or lacks certain nutrients, this can be a big cause of issues like dandruff, fur loss or thinning, and dry skin.
Like humans, some cats are allergic to certain foods or food groups, like dairy or milk. These allergies can cause hair loss or thinning hair if the cat continues to consume the food. Skin itchiness on the face, ears, front legs, paws, and around the anus is a common sign of a food allergy in both dogs and cats.
Bathing Too Often
If you really need to bathe your cat, you can. But in most cases, there’s no need: Cats maintain their coats on their own, so let them groom and bathe themselves. They’ll remove surface bacteria from their fur while maintaining the essential oils needed for a healthy coat.
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms can be detrimental to a cat’s coat. Bald patches or a dull, poor coat can be a sign that a parasite has taken up residence in your cat.
Being overweight is another factor that can negatively impact a cat’s coat. Even moderately overweight cats can’t reach certain areas of their body to groom. If a cat cannot groom themselves like usual, their coat will take a major hit.
A cat struggling with anxiety might pull out the hair in their coat or groom excessively. Cats that are stressed may obsessively lick and scratch, losing hair as a result.
Best Cat Food Ingredients for a Healthy Coat
Your cat needs several vitamins and nutrients in their food to maintain a healthy coat. Here are some of the most important cat food ingredients that you can find in wet, canned cat foods or dry kibble that will help support a healthy coat (and will please even the most sensitive stomachs).
Vitamin A is essential for cats' immune health and immune response. While some animals, like dogs, can produce vitamin A on their own, cats cannot — they can only obtain this crucial vitamin through their food. Raw liver is a cat food ingredient that contains vitamin A.
Vitamin E is also important for your cat’s skin coat and its immune health. In fact, some veterinarians will even recommend a vitamin E topical oil to treat your cat’s eczema or other skin issues. Your cat can get vitamin E from seed oils and vegetable oils.
B vitamins include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (b2), and folic acid (B9). Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, supports your cat’s immune system, which supports their skin. B vitamins are found in a variety of sources for cats, including chicken, salmon, tuna, and eggs.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, which cats cannot produce on their own, are vital for immune system fitness. These commonly come from sources like flaxseed and fish oil. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in wild-caught fish. These fatty acids go straight to your cat’s cellular membranes, and contribute to their strength, function, and structure, playing a significant role in skin health.
Like Vitamins E and A, your cat needs zinc for the immune health of its skin coat. Zinc helps with DNA synthesis, growth, wound healing, and immune function. Cats don’t make zinc in their body — like vitamin A, they need to get it from the food they eat. Both red meat and poultry (like chicken) are good sources of zinc.
Bition (vitamin B7) helps metabolize the rest of your cat’s diet. Biotin supplements are often advertised as a treatment for dry skin or itchiness in cats (similar to the biotin hair, skin, and nail supplements touted for humans). Lean meats and eggs contain biotin.
Copper is a mineral that helps promote skin and coat health in cats. If your cat is deficient in copper, they will exhibit a dull coat with patches of hair loss all over their body. Liver and fish are two sources of copper for cats.
6 Best Cat Food Options For A Healthy Coat
The Honest Kitchen offers several cat food options for all life stages, formulated to benefit their coat and provide a host of other excellent nutritional benefits. In fact, 71%* of our customers agree their cat’s overall skin and coat health improved after switching to our recipes. Below are seven of our best cat foods to help your cat’s skin and coat glow with health!
#1. Minced Chicken in Bone Broth Gravy
For cats who salivate over poultry, our Minced Chicken in Bone Broth Gravy is a top contender. This 100% human grade recipe contains savory chicken and gravy, vitamin E, vitamin A, B vitamins, zinc, and other nutrients your cat needs to maintain a healthy coat.
#2. Grain Free Chicken & Whitefish Clusters
Like all our pet food, we created the Grain Free Chicken & Whitefish Clusters (for kittens and adult cats) with the help of a veterinary nutritionist. Full of protein, whole foods, and a boost of probiotics to help support digestion, this recipe is the first ever 100% human grade dry cat food.
#3. Minced Salmon & Cod in Fish Broth Gravy
Fish, especially salmon, is an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In this recipe for Minced Salmon & Cod in Fish Broth Gravy, we combine two kinds of fish with other delicious real ingredients packed with nutrients. (This is a great cat food option for even the pickiest kittens and adult cats!)
#4. Smittens White Fish Cat Treats
Your cat should get most of their nutrients from their day-to-day diet. But the occasional treat doesn’t hurt, either — as long as any special treats also contain safe, real ingredients. Give your cat’s coat an extra boost with our Smittens White Fish Cat Treats. With just two ingredients (whitefish and salt) your cat will get the protein and omega-3 they need.
#5. Dehydrated Grain Free Chicken & Fish
Give your cat’s coat the support it needs with our Dehydrated Grain Free Chicken & Fish. This dehydrated cat food contains free-range chicken, wild-caught fish, and nutritious, flavorful bone broth. Simply add warm water to rehydrate, mix, and serve.
#6. Grain Free Salmon & Cod Câté (Pâté)
Our final recommendation for your cat’s coat is our Grain Free Salmon & Cod Câté. This wet cat food contains vitamin E, vitamin A, B vitamins, omega-3, omega-6, and more. It’s a lower-fat option than other foods on this list (if that’s what your vet recommends for your cat), and it doesn’t contain any grain, fillers, or GMO ingredients.
How Human Grade Cat Food Can Boost Your Cat’s Health
All of our pet food at The Honest Kitchen is human grade — but what does this actually mean?
Human grade cat food is manufactured the same way as food for human consumption. Our food meets the same list of strict regulations set by the FDA and USDA as healthy people foods, all the way from sourcing and production, to the finished product that arrives on your doorstep.
At The Honest Kitchen, we use high-quality ingredients, including fruit, vegetables, and high-quality animal protein sources like organ and muscle meat — we never use low-quality byproducts like chicken meal. We also test each batch of food to make sure it doesn’t contain pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, and listeria.
Additional Tips for Helping Your Cat Maintain a Healthy Coat
Your cat’s diet is massively important for skin and coat health, but here are a few other helpful tips to keep your cat's coat healthy.
Only brush your cat if they’re a longhaired breed. Breeds with medium to long fur typically need help with grooming because their fur can form mats. However, if you have a short-haired breed, you don’t need to brush your cat at all.
Provide Environmental Stimulation
Mental stimulation (interesting things to see, smell, hear, and experience) can also translate into a healthier coat. Cats aren’t meant to be locked up indoors. While a life spent inside your house might keep them physically safe, cats will mentally benefit from watching birds and experiencing the sounds and smells of the outdoors.
To give your indoor cat more stimulation in their environment, consider creating a “catio” where they can experience the outdoors from a safe, enclosed location. Another idea is to divide their daily food into multiple small servings and use the food for a treasure hunt or in a puzzle. Or purchase a cat water fountain for their hydration.
Use Parasite Preventatives
Even indoor-only cats can experience flea infestations or be affected by other tiny parasites — and these small creatures can significantly damage your cat’s fur and skin. Make sure your cat is on the correct schedule of parasite preventatives. This typically includes flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives, but ask your vet for specifics.
Keep Your Cat’s Coat Healthy With The Honest Kitchen
Your cat’s skin health is important. Make sure they have a shiny coat by choosing human grade cat food with quality ingredients and protein sources — without the fillers, preservatives, and artificial colors, and artificial flavors (commonly found in feed grade pet food).
At The Honest Kitchen, all our natural pet food is human grade, made with high-quality, thoughtfully sourced ingredients. We work closely with veterinary nutritionists to ensure our recipes include vitamins, essential amino acids, a high protein content, and everything else your cat needs for optimal wellness.
Shop our selection of healthy, delicious foods designed to help give your cat the beautiful, healthy coat they deserve.
*Based on a poll of more than 1,000 Honest Kitchen customers who feed a variety of complete & balanced recipes daily to dogs and cats. Responses reflect customer responses where their pet displayed that specific problem. For informational purposes only — results are not guaranteed and may not be typical for other pets.
**Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.