Static Electricity in cat’s fur easily charged

Static Electricity in Cat's Fur

Static electricity in cat’s fur is real, and when we reach out to pet our precious Fluffy, we are greeted with shocks from static electricity. It isn’t pleasant for our felines, nor for us.

As the winter drags on and on, the air gets drier. The drier the air, the more prone we are to static electricity. We can see it, feel it, and hear it.

Our heating systems combined with the cold air fuel the situation, and that’s why it seems like February and March are prime time for the electricity to fly.

We could make this a humorous post, and perhaps at one point Paws will, but for today, let’s take a serious look at how we can make our furry friends just a little more comfortable, and give us humans, a reprieve from those shocks when we reach out to give our cats their daily dose of loving pets.

Static electricity comes from dry air. When your cat rubs against blankets, couches, carpets and other household items, static accumulates on their fur. The most common sign of static electricity is getting an electric shock when touching them. However, their fur can stand up or just not lay down smoothly like it normally should. That’s how Paws’ kitty family looks. Our Siamese brother, Linus, looks like he’s got wet hair, and when we reach out to him, we can just hear the electric charge.

Where does this electric charge come from? At this point, we look to science for answers, because electricity is pretty complicated stuff. On Ask.com, we find this description.’Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of a material. The charge remains until it is able to move away by means of an electric current or electrical discharge.’ What that means is when we reach out to pet our cats, the electric charge comes charging towards our hand.

When we think of electricity, we usually think about current electricity, which flows through wires or other conductors and transmits energy for our washers, dryers, and modern conveniences in our homes.

Static electricity in cat’s fur causes shocks

A static electric charge is created whenever two surfaces contact and separate, and at least one of the surfaces has a high resistance to electrical current (and is therefore an electrical insulator). The shock occurs when the charge hits the neutral source.

Where static electricity comes from is a common question we find as we go searching on the Internet. We find an interesting take at Ask a Scientist at Cornell University. Each week they answer questions submitted from people around the world. The column has extended from the Ithaca Journal, now having its own website. Not surprisingly, one of the questions they were asked was about static electricity.

The article points out that everything contains tiny electrically charged particles: negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. These particles, invisible to the eyes, are usually confined within objects. However, some electrons can move around more easily.

If we remember school science classes, we were taught that negative and positive charges (electrons and protons) are attracted to each other, especially when they’re close together, But negative charges, electrons, standing alone repel each other. So objects normally have the same numbers of electrons and protons, being what’s called electrically neutral or uncharged.

The article states,

‘But some objects are more “greedy” for electrons than other objects.’
We quote Ask A Scientist here because they describe what happens to create static electricity so well. ‘When two different objects touch each other or are rubbed together (like a comb and your hair or a brush and your cat’s hair or different kinds of clothing in a clothes dryer), electrons can be “stolen” by the “electron-greedy” object from the other object. One object now has too many electrons (the comb or brush) and is negatively charged, while the other has too few electrons and is positively charged (the hair). The “crackles” you often hear when rubbing objects together are sparks made by rubbed-off electrons jumping back onto the object they came from to try to make both objects neutral again. But lots of the rubbed off electrons can’t make it back, so the objects stay electrically charged…at least for a while. This is static electricity.’

In winter, air is dry, whereas in summer, there’s a lot more humidity in the air. The humidity or water makes it easier for electrons to move from one place to another. They search out objects with fewer electrons and stay put. Because they are not floating around looking for a home, there’s a lot less static electricity. In winter, they can’t find that home, and in their outward search, we hear, feel and see the sparks.

Now we know where static electricity comes from, how do we prevent our felines and us humans from getting shocked.

  • The best answer is to put more moisture in the air, by running a humidifier. It’s safe for us, and it’s safe for our cats.
  • Another answer we find is wetting our hands before petting our cat. Again, that won’t hurt us or the cats.
  • Pet wipes could be a possibility because they have been tested as claiming to be safe for your feline.
  • Other suggestions are more questionable. Wiping your cat with a dryer sheet or putting fabric softener on your cat could get exposed to toxins that could lead to serious health issues. Paws would recommend staying away from these, and sticking with safe ways to add moisture to our environment.

 

 

 

 

Static Electricity zaps me and my cats.

Static Electricity zaps me and my cats.

Static Electricity zaps me and my cats

Are your cats full of static electricity this winter? What’s your funniest story about static electricity? Have you ever pulled a blanket off your cat, only to find his fur is sticking out like toothpicks? Do you use a humidifier to help your human skin as well as your cat’s fur stay manageable during the cold winter months? Please share your thoughts and your stories.

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BJ

BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

15 Responses

  1. I am genuinely thankful to the owner of this website who has
    shared this wonderful post at here.

  2. Sarahbell says:

    I had a beautiful short haired cat that was all white. As long as I didn’t *start* petting her on an exposed part of skin (nose, ears) she didn’t mind the static electricity. At night, when she curled up to sleep next to me, there would be a soft glow where my hand stroked her. It was enchanting really. It made her look unearthly as she laid there, purring steadily with a small wave of light moving over her.

    • BJ says:

      What a beautiful story. I’ve heard about the glow effect from static electricity. Sounds like your sweet cat definitely had that glow around her.

  3. BJ says:

    Try a humidifier in the room where you pet her. Let me start looking for any other options to help.

  4. LoveMyBaby says:

    I have a female short-haired kitten that just turned 1 year old. 😉 I have never had a problem with her mother, a long-haired calico who recently turned 14 and had an only child litter with the neighbor year old tomcat. I only seem to get static with the baby.
    The funny thing is, I live in Florida and have just a throw rugs. Even my furniture has no textiles (sadly) …
    We just play. Could there be another explanation? Maybe excitement?

    • BJ says:

      Let me look into this further. It cold be the baby’s fur has less moisture. You may want to try a small humidifier, even in Florida. The scatter rugs could also be an issue, but it doesn’t sound like that should just affect one cat. Let me know if the humidifier works. A small vaporizer would be ok.

  5. Peri Bhaskar Murty says:

    Hi,
    Ijustnread the article. I thought I will share an interesting experience with all of you.
    I have a dog ( a Spitz ). He has been hand fed by my wife from the time he was a little pup and thatbis how he eats even after 15 years. Anyway, my wife is traveling and I was looking after Casper. Last night, when I was feeding him his staple diet of Indian flat bread and boiled potatos ( yes taht is right! My dog is almost a vegetarian). Suddenly I got a shock on my hands. It happened only once and there after it did not happen again. Since this had occurred for the first time in 15 years, I tried to find an explanation though I knew it had been caused by Static Electricity. Once again thanks for the article.

  6. annette breen says:

    My long hair cat seems to be getting zapped my the carpet. We are renting a new place, and all of a sudden he just takes of.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Living in FL we dom’t have so much of a static problem, but when we do it’s alway’s a surprise to Scooter. He looks so funny trying to find what just zapped him. Growing up in ME we all just accepted it, even the kitties.

  8. Sparkle says:

    Yep, no dryer sheets for us kitties! As a cat, I like the humidifier idea best – way better than damp-pawed humans!

  9. Very interesting article! One of my cats is very prone to static electricity. I’ve always wondered why she gets more staticy than my other cats, but I guess it’s because she has drier fur. Anyway, at night when we’re in bed, I can sometimes pet her and see the sparks of static electricity as my hand runs down her back. It looks cool, but I know it must be uncomfortable for her. Thank you for sharing the tips on how to get ride of the static. I’ll have to try them out!

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