We currently have 4 questions tagged and 1 tagged .

  • They mean the same thing.
  • Both terms can be applied to any species of animal that sheds its skin or fur.
  • is inconsistent with other tags like , , , , etc.
  • As a reptile owner I'd never think to search for "molt" as all the reptile groups I'm in seem to call it shedding, though both would be accurate terms.
  • As a cat owner it would never occur to me to search for "molt" either. (I thought shedding was about hair/fur while molting was about skin.) Nov 26, 2014 at 16:43

4 Answers 4


Shedding is the process of losing hair, when the hair follicle dies, the hair falls out of the animal's skin.

Molting is the process of running out of room to grow, whether it's because old skin has become too tight, an exoskeleton too small, or feathers have become damaged.

To be clear, there is more to the process of molting than the end part where the old skin, shell, or feathers are left behind. For animals that can regrow limbs, they do it through the process of molting, and I think it would be extremely confusing why a question asking about whether or not a tarantula will regrow a fang in their next molt would be tagged with .

I know people tend to call it shedding when talking about reptiles (I do too sometimes), but the process is molting, and I don't think it's fair to people who own invertebrates or birds to suddenly lump their molting questions into the shedding tag just because it sometimes gets called shedding for reptiles.

I also think it's more valuable to be technically correct when it comes to tags than simply using what terms people call things. That's why will send people to and will send people to .

Since we can't really create a synonym either way, I think it's best if we manually fix the tags as questions come in (mammals with others with ). There aren't too many questions on either subject, and it will keep away any confusion as to why we're saying that invertebrates and birds shed.

If anything, I think it makes more sense to have shedding as a synonym of molting, since animals shedding fur as the season change is technically a form of molting.

  • Shedding is not only the process of losing hair. Snakes and other reptiles "shed their skin", after all. Nov 26, 2014 at 16:02
  • Birds and arachnids, though... You may have a point. Hmm. I'm not sure how much value there is in lumping the spider question you suggest in with a bird moulting its feathers, though? Nov 26, 2014 at 16:08
  • @starsplusplus Shedding the skin is the term for last part of the process of molting. Like how you can say you shed off clothes when you change. I'm trying to look at it from a technical perspective of what the differences are, so maybe the wikis can be updated to be more clear on what questions fall under what tag.
    – Spidercat
    Nov 26, 2014 at 16:21
  • Personally, I think both questions about an arachnid molting and a bird molting are okay with the same tag, because the tag is about the process of molting, not who's doing it. That would be a second tag for the species.
    – Spidercat
    Nov 26, 2014 at 16:23
  • I disagree. As pointed out by this meta answer, one of the things tags are for is to connect experts with questions they're able to answer. How many people are going to be experts on spider-moulting and bird moulting? It also says "If a tag only makes sense when used in combination with another tag (like 'visual' with 'studio', or '3.5' with .net), it's a bad tag." I think this applies to the broad "moulting" tag, if it can be applied to birds or dogs or snakes or spiders and mean completely different things in all those cases. Nov 26, 2014 at 16:37
  • 1
    @starsplusplus We have the [health] and [behavior] tags that follows the same logic and it seems to be working fine. I guess I don't see the difference between [reptiles][molting] and [reptiles-molting].
    – Spidercat
    Nov 26, 2014 at 16:52
  • Well for a start, what if they tagged it [snakes][molting] instead of [reptiles][molting]? Not every reptiles question is tagged reptiles, and the case is even less true should you want to search for [mammals][molting]... Nov 26, 2014 at 16:53
  • Just FYI - Some mammals like rabbits molt so having all mammal go to shedding would not be technically correct. Nov 27, 2014 at 16:19
  • @JamesJenkins - I think it's probably safe to say, however, that most people will refer to that as shedding, as they would with cats or dogs. I know I did when we had rabbits.
    – Joanne C
    Nov 29, 2014 at 3:19

From @Spidercat's answer:

I know people tend to call it shedding when talking about reptiles (I do too sometimes), but the process is molting, and I don't think it's fair to people who own invertebrates or birds to suddenly lump their molting questions into the shedding tag just because it sometimes gets called shedding for reptiles.

Whilst this is technically true (the best kind of true), it is really impractical. Nobody I know refers to reptiles changing their skin as molting, only as shedding. So currently we have a tag for reptilian shedding which would not be found by users, seeing as they find first.

I think the distinction between shedding/molting for different classes of animals is more important (in terms of classifying questions and areas of expertise) than the technicality of whether it is molting or shedding.

I suggest dividing up into , , and (in arachnids it is commonly referred to as molting).

We can then create synonyms for each replacing shedding for molting and vice versa.

  • 2
    "Nobody I know refers to reptiles changing their skin as molting, only as shedding." The problem gets only worse when you have non-native english speakers. I'm German and ran "molting" and "shedding" through Leo and Linguee. Changing hair, skin and feathers are all translated as "molting" with "shedding" listed as alternate translations only for changing skin and fur. The translation engines don't explain the technical differences between both terms, so non-natives will get it wrong.
    – Elmy Mod
    Aug 30, 2018 at 6:59
  • @YElm has a very important point. As we looked through some of the questions and answers tagged moulting/shedding, it became apparent that people use the terms interchangeably.
    – Henders
    Aug 30, 2018 at 13:51
  • @Henders yep. So we need to decide what matters most. 1) how the terms should be used or 2) how the terms are used.
    – JAD
    Aug 30, 2018 at 13:54

I think first of all we should retag the single question that is tagged to for consistency with other tags.

Then I suggest we map from to .

There are more questions tagged , so it makes sense for the mapping to be in that direction.

Plus, I'm active in a number of gecko and reptile groups and I've never heard anyone talk about reptiles moulting, only shedding, whereas furry-pet owners are obviously happy with either term judging by the tags they've used.

I think that at the same time a synonym should be created from (alternative spelling, and the one Wikipedia uses; also the only one correct in UK English) to , since if you type "mou", won't come up.

  • molt should be renamed molting for consistency.
    – JoshDM
    Dec 16, 2014 at 18:35

On further reflection, I'm not sure how much value there is in lumping moulting cats in with snakes shedding their skin, birds moulting feathers and spiders regrowing fangs. There's not really that much overlap between the different types of moulting.

The help centre guidelines say that tags are for helping you identify questions that will be useful to you, and a way of connecting experts with questions they want to answer. Who is going to want to browse all categories of moulting questions at once? Or who will be an expert on them? Far fewer people than those who will be an expert in (or interested about) one particular category.

There is, however, overlap between cats and dogs dropping fur, or between leopard geckos and bearded dragons with stuck shed. It makes much more sense to group the questions this way than lumping them all in together.

I propose separate tags for fur-shedding animals, skin-shedding animals and feather-shedding animals. (Any other moulting animals, like invertebrates, could be dealt with in future if questions arise.)

Let's find out first if the community likes the idea of separating those categories (by seeing if this answer gets upvoted), and if they do we can talk (via a new question) about whether to call them and , and , and , or something else entirely.

  • Have a look at: meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/783/…
    – Joanne C
    Nov 29, 2014 at 3:13
  • @John I don't really think the points in that answer apply. There's no useful reason to separate the subject of kittens from cats. I agree, and I would argue that there is a useful reason to separate losing feathers from losing skin. They're completely different processes requiring completely different knowledge and you can be an expert on one without knowing anything at all about the other. Nov 29, 2014 at 12:48
  • I think it does, people are going to search for shedding, not shedding-fur. They're going to search for molting (American spelling), not molting-reptiles. If they also are interested in reptiles, they'll search for that in a separate tag. The point being, the tags you're suggesting are attempting to create too many categories in an effort to subdivide all of 5 questions. It's overkill which, in the end, is exactly Robert's point.
    – Joanne C
    Nov 29, 2014 at 13:53
  • Hmm okay. Fair enough. Nov 30, 2014 at 20:49

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