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How to Help a Cat Experiencing Matted Fur

Topic: Skin & Coat
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Cats are soft little furballs (except for when they’re hairless). For the most part, cats take care of their fur on their own—they use their tongues to cleanse themselves of dirt, remove dead hair and keep everything tidy. Sometimes, though, they aren’t able to fix all the problems with their coats.

When cat hair gets dirty or tangled, it can quickly become matted. Matted fur can be uncomfortable for your cat to deal with and can progressively get worse, potentially leading to skin infections and other issues. If you notice a rough, matted section of fur anywhere on your cat’s body, here’s what you need to know to fix it.

What Causes Matted Fur?

Matted fur can stem from a number of different things. Most commonly, mats develop when long hair gets tangled in itself. This can happen because of dirt or poor grooming. Shedding can also cause matting if hair falls out and gets tangled with the remaining hair. If this hair isn’t brushed out, it can continue to form a tighter mat.

Mats are most common in long-haired cats and elderly cats. Long hair is tougher to keep orderly and tangles more easily, while elderly cats may forget or have a harder time grooming.

Matted fur is common on the parts of your cat’s body that rub together frequently, as this can tangle fur more easily. When grooming your cat, check around your cat’s legs, chest, neck and under the tail.

Mats are bad for a number of reasons. First, if they aren’t removed, they continue to grow tighter and move closer to the skin. This can make it uncomfortable for your cat to move or lay down.

Second, since they settle close to the skin, mats can disrupt the airflow to your cat’s skin. Over time, the skin underneath the mat can become dry and flaky, potentially even leading to skin infections. Mats at the back of your cat’s legs are particularly dangerous because they are more likely to trap urine and feces.

Tangled Fur in Short & Medium-length Haired Cats

If your cat has short or medium-length hair, it’s not as likely to get mats, but they can still occur on occasion. Usually, these mats don’t get too severe, so you might be able to work them apart using your fingers. You may want the assistance of an animal-safe detangler to help loosen the hair. (Generally, vets consider these minor clumps of hair to be “tangles.”)

If that doesn’t work, you can try using a fine-toothed comb or metal mat comb, which will work to loosen the tangled fur. Hold the mat at the base of the fur to prevent strong pulling. Make sure you’re only doing this on small, loose mats and not on large or tight mats, or you could pull on the skin too much and make your cat very uncomfortable.

Severely Matted Fur in Long-haired Cats

Long-haired cats are at a higher risk of developing extremely matted fur because of their long, thin hairs. If your long-haired cat has developed a large mat, it may be nearly impossible to work out with your fingers or a detangling brush.

It’s not a good idea to bathe cats with existing mats. Adding water to the mix can trap moisture below the surface. and make matted fur even harder to remove.

Unfortunately, these types of mats will usually need to be cut out. However, you should not attempt to do this yourself at home. One incorrect snip could cut your cat’s skin and cause it pain. Additionally, severely matted fur could be causing your cat distress, making it much harder for you to cut the fur.

Instead, take your cat to a vet or a groomer to have them investigate the mat and use the proper tools to remove the mat and allow new hair growth.

Preventing Matted Hair

All cats should be groomed regularly to ensure that their hair stays smooth, healthy and un-matted. One of the best ways to do this is by brushing. A daily brushing with the appropriate brush type for your cat’s hair length can distribute oils throughout the fur and remove dead hair, as well as loosen or alleviate tangles to prevent mats entirely.

Additionally, some cats with longer hair should get routine trims to ensure that certain areas of the body don’t get excessively dirty, such as under the tail near the anus. Keeping these areas neatly trimmed can prevent the accumulation of feces or dirt that can lead to skin infections under mats.

With careful attention to your cat’s fur, you should be able to help it avoid matted fur or catch tangles early so they don’t develop into something more serious.

Meet Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford

Pet Wellbeing's own Dr. Jan has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years. Since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, she's founded two veterinary clinics and lectured extensively on pet herbal therapy, nutraceuticals, acupuncture, rehabilitation and pain management.

Dr. Jan has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities, helping us to formulate all of our supplements. She is an essential part of Pet Wellbeing.

And lucky for us, she's only one of the great team of people who make Pet Wellbeing so special.

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