Cat fur matting occurs when a cat’s hair becomes entangled or knotted. Cats are fastidious groomers and spend a substantial portion of their awake hours grooming themselves. Self-grooming removes loose fur, keeps a cat’s coat healthy, and distributes natural oils throughout the coat.
While long-haired cats are more prone to matting, medium-haired and short-haired cats can also mat. If you see your cat’s fur matting, you should attend to it promptly. Mats are uncomfortable and painful for cats. Additionally, matted fur may indicate that something is amiss with your cat’s health.
Why is My Cat’s Fur Matting?
The biggest question that most cat owners have is “why is my cat’s fur matting?”, although there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
Matted fur occurs when a cat’s hair becomes entangled or knotted. Mats are a combination of dead hair and skin oils. Some of the most common places for cat fur to mat are places on the body that rub or move a lot, such as the collar area, between the legs, under the chest, and at the base of the tail. The pressure of lying down can also cause mats to form on your cat’s hindquarters, shoulders, down his back, or on his sides. Overweight or arthritic cats who cannot easily self-groom may get mats anywhere on their bodies.
Cat fur matting can be caused by a number of things. Sometimes a cat’s fur will mat from the natural shedding process when hair from the undercoat gets tangled with hair in the overcoat. Older cats are naturally more prone to matting because as a cat ages, his skin and coat health deteriorate. They also naturally produce excess skin oil. Oftentimes, a senior cat experiences joint stiffness or arthritis pain, which makes grooming more difficult as well.
Interestingly, a cat’s color may make him more prone to matting. Blue, cream, and some white cats have cottony fur, which is more prone to matting.
Cat fur matting may be a sign that your cat has a health issue. When a cat doesn’t feel well, he may spend more time sleeping than usual, and he may not have the energy to groom himself. Your cat’s matted fur may be your first sign that something is amiss with his health.
If your cat’s hair is matted, it may be a sign that he’s in pain. While most senior cats develop arthritis, younger cats can develop arthritis, too. Carmine, my orange domestic shorthair cat, was six years old when he developed arthritis in his left hip. He has always taken excellent care of his coat. So, when I noticed his fur was matted a couple of years ago, I knew his arthritis pain was no longer being controlled well. We adjusted his medication, and with less pain, he’s been able to maintain his coat once again.
Finally, a cat whose fur is matted may be experiencing a dental problem. Cats use their tongues to groom themselves. When a cat’s mouth is hurting, he is less likely to keep up with his grooming. A cat with matted fur may be suffering from a mouth infection, tooth abscess, mouth inflammation, or another dental issue that needs to be addressed.
How to Remove Hair Mats from Cats
Once a cat’s fur begins to tangle, a mat can grow quickly. Left unattended, it will continue to grow larger and become tighter and closer to the skin, causing skin irritation, pain, and a loss of movement. They can also hide other skin and fur issues, such as parasites, fleas, and ticks. It’s important to tend to mats as soon as you notice them. If mats become severe, you may need to take your cat to your vet to have them removed while your cat is under anesthesia.
If you’re wondering how to remove cat hair mats, you have a few options.
Combing Them Out
If your cat’s mats are mild, you can comb them out at home. Some people choose to use a pet detangling spray on the mat before they comb it out, but it isn’t necessary to do so.
Hold the mat as close to your cat’s skin as you can to help reduce pulling on your cat’s skin while you comb out the tangles. Use a de-matting comb to make quick, short strokes to detangle your cat’s hair. Start at the end of the mat and work your way up to help prevent the comb from getting stuck, potentially causing your cat pain.
Comb your cat when he is calm. Plan for several short sessions over several days. If your cat gets stressed out during the sessions, take a break for some cat treats and pets. Talk to your cat in a soothing voice while you comb him. Be as gentle as your can while combing him to reduce the amount of discomfort he feels.
If your cat resists brushing or becomes stressed out during sessions, you may want to consider taking him to a professional groomer to have his mats removed. If the mats are only affecting his hair, a professional groomer can either comb the tangles out or shave the mats off using electric clippers.
When to Seek Your Vet’s Care
If your cat’s mats are affecting his skin, it’s best to take him to your veterinarian. Your vet can remove the mats while your cat is under anesthesia and may also prescribe medication to treat skin irritation or inflammation.
Never Use Scissors to Cut Mats Out
You should never cut your cat’s mats out with scissors. Cats have thin, delicate skin, and even the most careful cat owner can inadvertently injure their cat trying to cut a mat out. If you cannot comb a mat out at home, please take your cat to a professional groomer or your veterinarian for help with mat removal.
How to Prevent Cat Fur Matting
Regular grooming sessions are the best way to prevent your cat’s hair from matting. In addition to adjusting Carmine’s arthritis treatment plan, I comb him a few times each week to help prevent his fur from matting. He has never enjoyed being brushed, but with lots of treats and pets, he’s learned to tolerate short brushing sessions.
How many grooming sessions your cat needs each week will depend on several factors, including how tolerant he is of the sessions, how long his fur is, and how much grooming he is able to do on his own. If your cat doesn’t enjoy being groomed, try several short combing sessions throughout the week instead of one longer session. Talk in a soothing voice during grooming sessions and make sessions as positive as you can by offering cat treats and pets during them.
If your cat gets very stressed out or resists grooming at home, you may want to consider making regular appointments with a professional groomer to help prevent the formation of mats. A lion cut a couple of times a year might be in order for cats who are prone to matting and resist home grooming.
Regular body scans of your cat can help you catch problems, such as cat fur matting, early. It only takes a few minutes to run your hands through your cat’s fur to check for mats. If you find a mat, remove it immediately. Consult your veterinarian to make sure nothing is amiss with your cat’s health.
Mats occur for a variety of reasons. When cat hair is matted, it causes your cat discomfort and pain. Regular grooming sessions at home or with a professional groomer can help you prevent mats from forming on your cat. Consult your vet about cat fur matting as matted fur may indicate that your cat isn’t feeling his best.
Have you ever dealt with matted hair in your cat? How did you address the problem?
Scanning your cat’s body every month can help you catch potential health issues early. Please join us in our Pet Health 5 Movement. We will email you a reminder on the 5th of every month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. It only takes five minutes to check your cat’s health stats and log anything you note. Sign up for the Pet Health 5 Movement today!
Using the right tools for Kitty’s coat is important to prevent matting too. Using a brush on a long haired cat for example only grooms the top part of the coat, it doesn’t reach down into the under coat where the mats form. Long coats need a steel comb. Save the brushes for the short haired cats. As a cat exclusive groomer I see cats all the time that have been lovingly brushed regularly for by good cat parents that look beautiful until I put hands on them and find the undercoat full of mats.