Why Does My Cat Get Mats?

A human has approximately 800 to 1,290 hairs per square inch on their head. Seems like a lot? Now take cats: a single cat has about 130,000 hairs per square inch of their body. It’s no wonder many cats have a difficult time keeping up with their fur. You may have stepped on the nasty hairball in the middle of the night or noticed your cat licking an area that seems dull and where the fur is close together. When this happens, it’s important to remove the matted cat fur before it causes serious health problems like obstructions and complications and pain from mats.

What are mats?

Mats are chunks of your cats fur that have become tangled and knotted. Over time, they become bigger clumps and can conjoin into one big mass (a pelt). Mats are found on the ears and parts of your cat’s body where there is a lot of movement or where your cat licks. These areas include behind the ears, the collar, between the legs, under the chest and tail. Mats can also form on the shoulders, down the back and sides and hindquarters from the pressure of lying down.

For some cats that are overweight or unable to reach parts of their body due to arthritis and age, mats can occur along hips, stomach, legs, feet, neck and all over. These poor kitties just can’t get to areas other cats can.

What causes matting?

Greasy skin and coat combined with natural shedding causes matting. And once a small tangle or mat forms, it grows very quickly.  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. The longer mats are left unattended, 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. The only real safeguard against tangles and mats is regular bathing and drying, expertly done by a professional cat groomer who is experienced in grooming cats. Make sure your cat groomer is certified through the National Cat Groomers Institute, the only cat grooming association that offers effective, quality training for cat grooming certification.

Are some Cats more likely to get mats?

Cats with cottony coats like Persians, long-haired cats, calicos with dense fur, dilute cats, overweight cats and cat’s with health problems, on medication and those with arthritis or sore joints are some of the cats more prone to matting. We also see cats come into the salon who have been bathed by their owners or who have snuck outside and got stuck in the rain. They did not get combed out and the pressure of laying on the fur without it being combed caused snarls.

What Can I do If My Cat Has Mats?

Healthy and tangle-free cat fur allows for a continuous air flow to your cat’s skin and allows your cat to move with ease. Matted cat fur damages tissue by preventing oxygen and moisture from reaching it which can lead to skin irritation and infection. Cat’s will begin licking themselves to get rid of the itchy, dry and flaky skin which increases the amount of hair they ingest.

Are Mats Painful to Cats?

Mats under the legs can impede a cat’s ability to move freely. Those that form on the back of your cat’s legs need to be addressed immediately. They can trap urine and feces, leading to a skin infection and a miserable kitty. Mats that are not taken care of can also become a breeding ground for parasites.

What if there is a small tangle?

If there are a few small tangles and not too tight, you can try to work them out by breaking them apart with your finger. We then recommend combing through the fur, being as gentle as possible.

Don’t ever try to cut out a mat. Cats have very delicate skin and it can tear and rip. Cat’s are also very quick to move and can easily become injured by scissors or other sharp tools when trying to escape. With mats close to the skin, it’s easy to cut close to the skin. Not only will your pet be in pain but they will experience excessive bleeding and a wound that may need emergency veterinary care. Nicks to the skin that go unnoticed can become infected.

When to Seek Professional Help

Most of the time when we get the call for a groom, it’s too late to simply detangle. This is because not all matted cat fur is easy to remove. When there are multiple tight mats that are painful, shaving your pet’s entire coat is the only solution. Instead of potentially injuring your cat, it’s best to seek professional pet groomers or a 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 proper tools moving forward and maintenance grooming schedule to ensure your kitty never gets mats again. The right tools, products, and techniques can make all the difference in the world for you and your cat. And having a happy, well-groomed cat can make all the difference for you.

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