How To Get Mats Out Of A Cat’s Fur

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Cats are known for their dedication to grooming themselves, spending up to half of their waking hours doing so. You will have seen your cat cleaning themselves all over, from paws to tail.

Often, cats will contort themselves into peculiar positions so that no part is left untouched. In line with their independent nature, most of the time cats do not need our help when it comes to grooming. It is something they will happily take care of by themselves.

But perhaps recently, you’ve been stroking your cat and come across some mats in their fur. Why have these formed and how can you get rid of them? Read on to find out more.

What Are Mats And What Causes Them To Form?

Mats form when a cat’s fur becomes tangled up and knotted together.

Before we discuss how to get rid of mats, let’s first go over what they are and why they come about. Mats are the clumps that form when a cat’s fur gets all tangled together. This can happen when hair is shed from the undercoat and then gets caught and trapped within the topcoat.

Fur can also mat in high movement areas where the hairs rub together more, such as under the chest and between the legs. These clumps of fur can range in size. Some are small and feel like knots. Some are so large that they can feel quite firm and dense. Longhaired and medium-haired cats are of course more prone to their fur becoming matted.

Also Read: 23 Interesting Facts About Cat Fur You May Not Have Known

Mats can also indicate an underlying medical condition. For instance, if a cat has dental disease, the pain in their mouth can discourage them from grooming themselves properly. Older cats with arthritis may have difficulty turning and reaching particular areas of their body. Overweight cats will also struggle. Cats who feel generally unwell won’t be able to carry out their usual daily habits, which includes grooming.

If your cat has kept their coat in tip-top condition up until now and you’ve recently noticed mats in their fur, it is worth looking out for other changes in their behavior. If you have any concerns at all that there could be something more going on, get in touch with your veterinarian.

Also Read: The Different Types Of Black And White Cat Coat Patterns

How Can Mats Be Removed?

The success of removing mats at home depends on the size of the mat and whether your cat tolerates your attempts. It’s always best to have another person to help hold your cat so that they don’t wriggle around too much.

1. With A Comb

Small, loose mats can sometimes be untangled with a comb.

You can try teasing out small mats with a comb. Make sure you hold on to the base of the mat closest to the skin and start combing from there. Work your way through the mat slowly with the comb and try not to pull too much. The last thing you want to do is tug at the mat and, in turn, your cat’s skin. As you can imagine, this can cause your cat great discomfort and distress.

Also Read: 11 Best Cat Brushes & Deshedding Tools For Long & Short Haired Cats

2. With Clippers

Large and very tight mats might need to be cut out with electric clippers.

Larger mats are more difficult to deal with. Sometimes, you’ll find that no amount of combing will disentangle them. In these cases, the best option is to remove the clumps of fur entirely.

You can use a pair of electric pet clippers to remove mats. It is important to make sure you position the blade parallel to/flat against the skin. Avoid placing the blade at a 90-degree angle as this could cut your cat’s delicate skin.

For mats that are close to the skin, try to see clearly where the fur and skin meet and start there with the top edge of your clippers. Be gentle in your handling of the mats and move the clippers slowly and carefully in the direction that the fur grows. Patience is key. You should soon feel the mat easing away. Remember not to yank at it too early.

Clippers heat up as you use them, and they can burn your cat’s skin. Check the temperature of the clippers against your hand every so often. If they feel too hot, take a break and allow them to cool off before continuing. This is also a good chance to give your cat a bit of a rest.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Gag At Combs?

3. Not With Scissors!

Can You Shave a Cat

If your cat becomes very matted routinely you might consider a professional trim like a lion cut.

You might be tempted to cut out your cat’s mats with a pair of scissors. Although this may seem like an easy way to get rid of the problem, the risk of cutting your cat’s skin and causing injury is too high. Cutting mats out with scissors is not recommended.

Also Read: Can You Shave A Cat?

4. With Professional Assistance

Your veterinarian or a pet groomer will be happy to help remove your cat’s mats.

Professional help is available if perhaps you don’t feel comfortable or confident about removing your cat’s mats at home. Or maybe your cat is becoming distressed with your attempts. If the latter is the case, don’t forcibly restrain your cat to continue.

It might be frustrating that your cat won’t cooperate but don’t despair. You can get in touch with a professional groomer who has the necessary experience and may be able to help.

Cats with more severe matting or who are very upset with grooming will require a visit to a veterinarian. Sedation may be recommended so that the de-matting can be carried out safely with minimal stress. If you are worried about your cat being sedated, your veterinarian will be happy to discuss any concerns that you have.

Also Read: The Ultimate Persian Cat Grooming Guide

How Can Mats Be Prevented?

The best way to deal with mats is to prevent them from forming in the first place.

Mats can be painful as they tug on your cat’s skin, and they can also cause further skin irritation and infection. The risk of this is even higher if mats form around the cat’s bottom, leading to feces and urine getting trapped. So, it is much better to prevent mats from forming in the first place.

Shorthaired cats usually don’t require our help, but longhaired cats benefit from daily brushing. The use of grooming tools, such as wide or long tooth combs and slicker brushes, can help keep their luxurious coats tangle-free. Remember to pay attention to the fur close to the skin as well and not just the topcoat.

As discussed earlier, a medical condition, such as arthritis, might be contributing to these mats forming in your cat’s fur. If the matting seems to be a recurring problem and has come along with other changes in your cat, it’s best to get your cat checked over by your veterinarian.

Also Read: Best Cat Grooming And Deshedding Gloves

Final Words

Comb out small mats as soon as you feel them so you don’t have to deal with a larger problem.

Matted cat fur isn’t just a cosmetic issue. As soon as you notice any mats on your cat, you should take steps to try and get rid of them to prevent further problems. Small mats can be combed out. Larger, more stubborn mats should be removed entirely. The best way to do this is by using pet clippers.

Don’t be tempted to cut mats out with scissors as that could result in a visit to your veterinarian for stitches. Finally, once your cat is mat-free, remember to maintain daily brushing and combing sessions so that they stay that way!

Also Read: Why Do Cats Groom Each Other? Reasons Why Cats Socially Groom

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my cat’s fur getting matted?

There are various reasons why a cat’s fur becomes matted. Longhaired breeds are more prone to matting and will benefit from regular combing and brushing. If your cat has never had issues in the past and mats are a recent change, that could indicate an underlying issue that might need veterinary attention.

Is matted fur painful for cats?

Yes, mats can cause much discomfort. Imagine if your hair was tangled together tightly and pulling on your scalp. That is why it is important to address the problem as soon as it is noticed. Mats that are left and ignored can then cause irritation and infection, which will only add to the distress.

Can you wash mats out of cat fur?

You might think it seems like a good idea to bathe your cat if their fur is matted. However, don’t do this—water will tighten the mats and make these stubborn clumps of fur even more difficult to get rid of. Remove the mats first, either with a comb or clippers, then bathe your cat (if your cat is not averse to getting wet!).

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About Dr. Beverley Ho BSc(VetSci)(Hons) BVM&S MRCVS

Beverley graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 2020. She also has an intercalated honours degree in Literature and Medicine; she achieved this in 2018 and was the first veterinary student to do so. An expert in behavior and nutrition, Beverley currently works as a small animal vet.