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Matting in cats and what to do

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

130,000. That’s the amount of hairs on your cat’s body, per square inch. That’s a massive amount of hair on your feline friend. Imagine keeping all that under control, it’s a struggle for us humans and we’ve only got 2200 hairs per square inch on our heads! Most of the time your cat will deal with it themselves and they’ll do a great job at it too, they’re great self-groomers! Every once in a while though their hair gets tangled or matted. This might be surprising, but that matted fur can lead to health problems, so it’s important to remove the matted cat fur before then.

If you’re new to this, and don’t know how to get the mats out of a cat’s fur, we’ll walk you through the basic process and let you know when it’s time to head to a professional.

Let’s look at the causes first, so you can try to prevent them. Fur can become matted for various reasons but it tends to occur on the areas of your pats body where there’s a lot of rubbing or movement such as between the legs, under the chest, under the tail and around the collar. Matted fur can also form on the shoulders and hindquarters from the pressure of lying down.

Shedding is another reason your pet may have matted cat fur. When loose hairs fall, it gets caught in your cat’s coat, leaving behind knots. When these knots are left unattended for a while, they can grow tighter and settle closer to the skin. As clumps get larger, they put pressure on your cat’s skin, making it painful to lie down.

Those are the main reasons you’ll find mats in your cats fur. But how does it become a health complication? Healthy and tangle-free cat fur allows for a continuous air flow to your cat’s skin. Matted cat fur, on the other hand, damages tissue by preventing oxygen and moisture from reaching it. This can lead to dry, scaly, and sometimes irritated skin. When your cat notices this change, they start to groom more which could increase the amount of hair they ingest and cause other health problems.

Another issue that you should take care of right away are mats that form on the back of your cat’s legs. Because of their location, they can trap urine and feces, leading to a skin infection. Neglected mats can also become a breeding ground for parasites.

Clearly then it’s important to remove the mats as soon as you notice them, here’s how! If the mat isn't too big or too tight, the best way to tackle it is to work it apart with your fingers by combing through the fur gently. Next, apply an oil-based detangling spray to loosen the fur. Use a metal mat comb for cats to detach the smaller tangles. Start by holding the hair below the mat, close to the skin, and separate the tangled fur into smaller pieces. Be as gentle as possible and apply short, fast strokes so there's less pulling of the skin.

Never try to cut out a mat - cats have very delicate skin and with mats forming close to it, it's easy to miscalculate and cut too deep. Not only will your pet be in pain but they will experience excessive bleeding and a wound that may need stitching. If you happen to nick the skin and it goes unnoticed, your cat is at risk for getting an infection.

It’s best for both your and your cat if the matted fur is stopped before they begin. The longer your cat's hair, the more likely it is to mat. To stop mats from forming, add regular brushing and combing into your pet’s routine. During this time, run your fingers through their fur. This will help you feel any clumps of fur below the surface that need immediate attention.

Sometimes it’s not as easy as spraying on some oil and trying to detangle it yourself. Not all matted cat fur is easy to remove. In some cases shaving your pet’s entire coat is the only solution. Instead of taking matters into your own hands, it’s best to see a professional pet stylist or veterinarian. Both have the tools and the knowledge about how to get mats out of cat fur without stressing or injuring your pet in the process.

If you choose to go with pet grooming for cats, you can ask for advice about the correct shampoo, detangling conditioners, and sprays to use at home. By incorporating these supplies into your regular grooming routine, you’ll know how to keep matted cat fur at bay.

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