Silky-smooth, tangle-free fur is usually a top indicator of a perfectly healthy and happy cat. These meticulous groomers love to maintain their coats and spend a lot of time doing so. And, whether you agree or not, that silky-smooth hair is enjoyable to touch and may even offer some therapeutic benefit.
That said, the occasional unsightly knot or tangle might appear, and this can be normal, especially for long-haired cats. However, when you start seeing a thick mass of clumped hair, then it becomes a problem for you and your kitty.
As much as possible, we do not want our fur-kids to suffer, and a lot of issues can be associated with matted fur. It is often accompanied by pain, discomfort, and irritation to your beloved cat.
Read on to understand why cats develop matted hair, and what you can do to make them happy and tangle-free again.
Why your cat becomes matted
The most common reason for matted fur in cats is a lack of self-grooming.
Felines use those little bumps on their tongue, called papillae, as their grooming tool to brush their hair and remove excess dirt and oil. This also keeps their hair tangle-free. So, as you can see, their grooming habits play a large role in keeping their coats silky-smooth and healthy.
But what happens when your cat changes its grooming routine? Knots and tangles may start to appear, especially on high-friction areas such as the chest, base of the tail, sides, and back. If not kept under control, this little nuisance can grow bigger and tighter, with skin oil and dirt mixed in, until it becomes too difficult to separate.
If you begin to notice your cat getting regular mats, something could be wrong.
Since the tongue is your cat’s main grooming tool, any dental problems or oral injuries can prevent it from grooming as it may be too painful. Obesity and arthritis, especially among senior cats, may cause mobility issues that limit them from reaching all of their body parts when they groom. Older and sick cats may also be too weak or in too much pain, so grooming becomes less of a priority for them.
If no medical problems are involved, then stress and anxiety could be the culprits if your cat suddenly changes its grooming habits. Cats are highly sensitive, even to the slightest change in sound or temperature. This means that having new people or pets at home, or even loud noises outside, can make an anxious cat stop grooming altogether.
Shedding may also worsen any matted clumps of hair, especially for long-haired breeds. While it is normal for felines to shed hair, especially during summer, loose hair may become trapped in the topcoat and cause knots and tangles. And again, the tangled fur will continue to grow further if you do not intervene.
Why matted fur is painful and bad for your cat
Matted fur does not only mar your cat’s beautiful coat; it may also be painful for your kitty, especially in severe cases.
Thick clumps of hair, when they become bigger and heavier, can pull against your cat’s delicate skin. You may start to notice the appearance of bruises as the skin is continuously twisted. Your cat may also start licking the affected areas more, in an attempt to get a bit of relief. Unfortunately, the saliva’s moisture might only attract more loose fur and dirt, making the compacted lump even bigger.
And nothing could be worse than a bad infection! Severe cases of matted fur often lead to open wounds, which are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. As your pet continues to lick away the pain and discomfort, the wound will grow bigger and may soon fill with pus.
Matted clumps of hair are also a favorite hiding place for parasites, such as ticks and fleas. Have you noticed your cat constantly licking and itching, especially in areas with matted fur? This may be due to parasite bites, which can be really itchy and sore.
Imagine what a painful experience your cat is going through!
Keep in mind that cats cannot talk to you when they feel discomfort. They can conceal pain and discomfort for a long time, so it is up to you to detect these issues by staying constantly alert to any changes in their behavior.
To shave or not to shave?
There are only two methods available to effectively get rid of matted fur. You can patiently demat the fur to loosen the clumps or shave it completely. However, most vets and pet owners discourage shaving since that, too, can be bad for your cat’s coat. It should be your last option if dematting does not work for you and your cat.
Never use shaving as a fast solution for matted fur!
So, how do you know if shaving is your best option? Look at the size and location of the clumped hair. Is it too difficult to detangle with dematting spray and a comb? You should also consider your cat’s age and skin conditions. If the matted clumps are too severe and cause skin infections, then shaving may be the best treatment approach.
Your cat’s temperament could be another reason for shaving. Some cats may simply refuse to cooperate with mat removal, as it causes them discomfort and pain. Dematting may also cause some cats to become aggressive and difficult to handle. If your cat responds negatively to dematting combs, then the best action is to call a professional groomer for help.
Lastly, never use scissors to cut away the matted fur! This is dangerous and may cause accidental cuts on your cat’s skin. Rather seek a professional groomer if you think cutting the mats would be better for your cat.
Caring for your cat after dematting
Your problem may not be totally over once you have removed your cat’s matted fur. Underneath those mats, you may find skin issues such as bruising, redness, or irritation. In severe cases, the mat removal may uncover serious problems such as open wounds, skin lesions, or parasites. In these cases, you should have your pet checked by a veterinarian for appropriate treatment. Never apply any ointment or cream unless instructed by the vet to do so.
Mats cause tightness or pulling on the skin. After the thick lump of matted fur is removed, the skin may become sore and sensitive. Your cat may then start licking the affected area obsessively until it develops into a hotspot.
Healing of the bald spots, especially in severe cases, may take some time. So, during this recovery period, you can help ease your cat’s discomfort and prevent hotspots using these methods:
- Place a cone or e-collar on your cat to prevent it from chewing or licking the irritated skin. Although the cone may look like a feline torture device, it is very important to keep it on until your cat has fully recovered. You may also give your cat a temporary tee-shirt to wear until the hair grows back.
- Religiously follow the treatments recommended by the vet. This could include changing your cat’s shampoo or using certain ointments to relieve the pain and itchiness.
Prevention is better than cure
Dematting can be unpleasant for you and your cat, so it is really important to correct how you care for your kitty to prevent further matting in the future.
Here are some steps to help your cat maintain its coat and prevent mats from recurring:
1. Regular grooming
Grooming is your best prevention for matted hair, especially if your cat is long-haired. If you are not comfortable doing it yourself, a visit to your professional groomer would save you time and effort.
2. Nip the problem in the bud
Since we want to prevent mats from ever occurring again, you need to keep a regular eye on your cat’s fur. Manage any tangles or knots you see right away; this is much easier to deal with than waiting for those small tangles to grow.
3. Get a grooming brush
Brush your feline’s hair two to three times a week to avoid tangles and knots. A short-haired cat may also benefit from a regular brushing routine. And, what is great about brushing is that most cats actually love it! So go and get a brush and enjoy the bonding moment with your feline friend.
4. Balanced diet matters, too
You are what you eat – this is not only true for us humans, but also for cats. Nutrients play a huge role in keeping your cat’s coat healthy and smooth, and a deficiency of certain nutrients may lead to dry skin, irritation, and matting.
So, try to give your cat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and fatty acids. Your vet may also recommend an ideal diet and high-quality cat food to keep your cat’s coat in top shape.
Wrapping it up
Matted fur is not only unsightly but also painful for your cat. Lumps of hair can trap dirt, moisture, and other irritants that may lead to great discomfort. In severe cases, the thick mass of knots can lead to skin infections and parasite infestations, which can affect your cat’s overall health.
As a fur parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your cat never suffers from matted fur. Watch out for any changes in your cat’s grooming habits and make sure it receives the proper care and nourishment to stay healthy.
Image: istockphoto.com / rustycanuck