Do cats have hair or fur? It’s an interesting question I see thrown around, and I’ve heard arguments for both answers.
What do you think? Do you call your cat’s coat their hair, or their fur?
The short answer is that you’re right, whichever side you’re on. The stuff that grows out of your cat can be called hair or fur, or even just their coat.
The reasoning behind this goes a lot deeper though. If you want to impress your friends (no promises here), read on to learn everything you’ll ever need to know about hair vs fur and the kind of hair cats have!
What’s the Difference Between Hair and Fur?
To get technical here, there isn’t really a difference between hair and fur. The difference in how we look at each is best summed up as follows:
Hair – Hair is only found on mammals. It’s the outgrowth of protein and grows from hair follicles that can be found just about anywhere on the body.
Fur – Fur is produced by the body in the same way. The term is commonly used to refer to the hair on mammals (excluding humans) and is also referred to as pelage sometimes.
Interestingly, when animals do not have hair or fur, like the Sphynx cat and other hairless breeds, they are referred to as hairless. You never hear them referred to as furless, right?
This is because, generally speaking, people naturally use the word fur when the coverage is denser than the hair that grows on our bodies.
Yet, the chemical composition of fur and hair is indistinguishable (source). This means it’s the characteristics of both words that people are using to decide on which word to use.
Another defining factor I’ve read is that people say that ‘hair’ doesn’t stop growing. Like the hair on our heads, although this can’t be said for body hair. While ‘fur’ grows to a certain length and stops. This is true for the fur on most animals, but again, this is just an observation-based determination.
Something I’ve noticed personally is that the word hair is more commonly used in US-English, while fur is more often used in UK-English. But that’s just an observation I’ve made over the years, there might not be anything to it.
Different Types of Hair (Or Fur) on Cats
Another difference between our hair and the stuff that grows on cats is the composition behind their coats. You may have heard or seen reference to a cat’s double coat, or even triple coat keeping them warm, right?
This is because cats actually have at least four different types of hair on their bodies. Each performing a very different function as follows:
A cat’s down hair is their undercoat. It’s the softest of their hairs, and this comfy layer of short hair helps keep them warm. This is the hair that tends to get most matted, especially in longhair breeds.
Breeds of cat that come from colder climates and have thicker coats, like the Main Coon and Norweigan Forest Cat. For me, if you’re going to call a cat’s coat fur, breeds with thick coats and dense down hair are the best examples.
Awn hairs are longer than down hairs and shorter than guard hairs. They are the intermediate hairs in a mammal’s coat and play a crucial role in keeping a cat warm through insulating heat.
Most of the hair you can see on a cat is awn hair. The length really depends on the breed of cat as there are so many different coat types.
The guard hairs are fine hairs that are the longest hairs in a cat’s coat. They often determine the color of a cat as they stick out the furthest, and are usually those long hairs that end up in your hand after stroking your kitty.
They play an interesting role too, guard hairs are very effective at wicking water off a cat so they don’t get soaked through.
Also known as tactile hairs or vibrissae, there are no mistaking whiskers on a cat as it’s one of their most distinguishable features. Cats have whiskers on their muzzle near their mouths, their cheeks, eyebrow area (read do cats have eyebrows to explain this further), and on the back of their front legs.
Whiskers play an important role in helping cats judge distances, like when they’re squeezing through a tight spot. As well as feeling prey, sensing changes in the air, and helping them maneuver in the dark.
If you’re after a quick answer to, do cats have hair or fur? Then the answer is – a cat’s coat can be called fur or hair. Both words are perfectly fine from a technical and biological viewpoint.
The words fur and hair can be used interchangeably. As far as I can find out, the word fur is more often used when hair growth is a lot denser. We tend to think of fur as being soft, covering the area thoroughly, and being different from human hair.
Cat’s are quite unique in how their coats grow. They have different types of hair performing different functions, and together it forms a think coat. That’s why I think they are often referred to as having fur. Much the same as with dogs, you hear the term dog fur much more often than dog hair.