Originally published Dec 17, 2015
UPDATE! July 25th - Charlie went to the emergency vet yesterday for nausea. It reminded me of this post when the vet was lightly touching him. I told them, they needed to grasp him because he haS flat hair follicles. Charlie is OK and you can learn why he went here.
I struggled with how to title this article as I am still trying to learn more about it. And hope that one of our readers knows more or knows where to send me to learn more.
Some time ago a reader asked me to do a video comparing the coats of my Ragdoll cats, Charlie and Trigg...and so I did. And that video, posted below, have been up for some time. I love both of their coats - Charlie's is like he stuck his paw in an electrical outlet (meaning all of his hair sticks directly out and does not lay flat), whereas Trigg's reminds me of Rags' coat. But Trigg can get oily - he gets little "caps" on his nipples from oil build up. Gross. Caymus' coat is like nothing I've ever felt and my sister's new Ragdoll cat, Ash, has a freakin' amazing coat.
Earlier this year, a vet in Scandinavia, Wirina Holstein, commented that Charlie's coat is "crépe coat". I was fascinated. Who knew there were terms for different types of cat hair coats? She mentioned that Charlie's coat was a result of flat hair follicles and Trigg's was from having round hair follicles! I had never thought that much about their hair types. And I have a lot more appreciation for both of their coats - and Charlie's obsessive nature about his coat.
I have included much of what Wirina wrote in the comments section of the video.
- Fatty Caps - Trigg probably "suffers" from being in a perfectly healthy condition. Most often the oiliness and clogged glands is not because of an over production of sebum and other fats evaporating through the skin but simply because they are in good condition. The fat and the clogged fatty caps are a protection that they would benefit from in wild life. The fat makes sure they won't get as wet in the rain, won't get dust all the way into their skin, and won't get their fur mangled and damaged. And it keeps their skin soft and in good shape just as they often produce a lot of excess ear wax which would also help them a lot in wild life but is a hassle for humans keeping them as pets. Since he is well fed with good fatty acid nutritional values, his coat has elasticity and a sleek top layer, making it soft and not mangled without split ends.
- Sebum - Often there are a correlation between how thick the outer skin layer is and the amount of sebum in the fur and the texture. In Charlie's case, he doesn't have that extra sebum in his coat. It's seen by the way his coat can fluff out in the air and be lighter even though its heavier.
- Crépe coat - We're specifically talking about dense fur, flat hair strands, coat hairs that seem light, can stand out from the body of the animal, are movable, not too heavy, not too oily, don't have a systematic characteristic of undercoat, usually no undercoat at all, the hair rejects water, but the coat is more prone to dryness than being moist. This type of coat rarely causes infections in the skin as the coat is not moist and heavy. The texture of the hair strands are what makes them fluffy and crepe-like which means they can look puffed up or even frizzed or micro curled but they will still be soft to the touch and some (like Charlie) can still have shine in the coat if the hair strands are similar and not too flat and will lay evenly most of the time. Speaking of evolution and nature, its one of the best kinds of coats because it causes less problems than most and can give protection from cold, rain and even heat as the heat doesn't really reach into the fur because the hair strands are no lying still, totally straight and parallel to each other. But in breed culture it's not a favorite type of coat as it can seem too bulky and make the animal seem less elegant and more like a little fur ball with legs. Additionally, it's typically less desired because the fur can stand out a bit more from the skin than regular long-haired coats like those typical of Maine Coons where the long coat lies flat. Crepe coats are also important in rescue work as its the hardest coat to treat because chemicals, dust, mange, anything is impossible to clean out of a crepe coat and often a full shaving is necessary. Charlie's fur has about the same level of water shield as a bird - and that's a lot. But his crepe coat allows his fur to dry faster when it does get wet. Also because his hairs don't lie all flat he can "feel" the hairs more as they are lifted a tiny bit horizontally out from his skin. So he can feel the wind more than a cat with a coat which lies flat and covers the skin all the way out to the surface. He can also feel being petted and being groomed more. For some cats it makes them become annoyed when being groomed so they want to kill the brush or comb. He's coat is protecting him from many skin and fur conditions and infections like flu and cold :-).
Further reading on coat type:
What do you know about this topic? Can you please share any insight or terminology you know? I'd like to look into it further.