Cats are excellent groomers. They spend most of their waking hours maintaining their silky, fluffy fur, meticulously cleaning every part of their body from head to tail. The surface of their tongues is made up of tiny papillae which are effective at picking up any dirt, parasites, and dead hair from their coats.
However, your feline’s well-maintained coat may occasionally develop knots that may turn into a tangled mess. These unsightly clumps of fur can not only hamper your cat’s grooming habits but also pose health risks such as skin infections. Long-haired cats are generally the most prone to matting, but this does not mean that short-haired cats are not susceptible to mats – especially those with thicker, bushier hair.
If you have a short-haired cat with matted fur, read on to learn the causes and ways to deal with it.
What causes matted fur in short-haired cats?
Matted fur in short-haired cats is composed mostly of dead hair, oily skin cells, and dirt, knotted together to form a dense ball of fur on your cat’s coat. There are a number of possible reasons your feline got into this mess, and these include:
1. Shedding of hair
Cats become susceptible to matting when they are shedding their undercoat. Shedding is perfectly normal and healthy and helps your cat adapt to its environment. This is why their coat is thicker during cold seasons and then starts to shed during hot seasons.
Without proper care and attention, this shedded hair can get trapped in the topcoat and become tangled with the surrounding fur. This ball of fur can grow over time, eventually becoming too difficult to separate.
2. Sticky saliva caused by some medicines
Medicines like lactulose can make your cat’s saliva very sticky so that when she starts to groom herself, the sticky saliva gets into her topcoat and attracts nearby hair as well as dirt that comes into contact with the fur.
3. Friction caused by movement
Fur tends to get more tangled in areas that are constantly exposed to friction from movement, such as at the back and sides of the body, the base of the tail, and the chest or under the collar. Without proper grooming, these tangles may develop into large, matted clumps of hair that can easily trap dirt, dust, and more dead hair.
4. Lack of self-grooming
Remember that felines generally love grooming themselves. Keeping themselves clean not only maintains their soft, shiny fur but also keeps dust, dander, and dead hair at bay. Without proper grooming, the opposite could happen: shedded hair and dirt can easily be trapped in the topcoat and turn into a mass of dead fur.
Sudden changes in your cat’s grooming habits could be a sign of stress or underlying health issues. Senior cats, in particular, may have mobility issues caused by obesity, arthritis, or body pain, which makes it difficult to reach certain body parts when they clean.
The lack of grooming could also be caused by dental problems such as inflammation or gum disease. Oral tumors may be present under the tongue and cause oral pain. If your kitty suffers from any of these issues, it may be too difficult for her to groom herself.
Stress could be another reason your feline friend has suddenly stopped grooming. This could be triggered by loud noises, such as nearby construction, fireworks, or thunderstorms. Even a new pet in your home may lead your cat to change her habits. Keep in mind that felines are highly sensitive to changes, so try to give your cat reassurance to help her stay calm and relaxed.
Why matted fur is harmful to your cat
Mats may not be just a simple cosmetic issue. Overall, they cause your kitty a great deal of discomfort as the mass of clumped fur continuously pulls the skin and leads to irritation. The skin may even develop sores and pus as the bacterial infection progresses. The discomfort will cause your kitty to lick the infected area even more and worsen the irritation.
Moreover, as the thick mass of tangled fur becomes bigger, you may start to notice bruising on your cat’s surrounding skin. Matted hair can twist the skin and crush nearby blood vessels, hence this occurrence of bruises.
Matted fur can also be a breeding ground for parasites. Ticks and fleas love hiding and reproducing within the matted clumps. This should be another very good reason to get rid of any mats. Without proper care, these uninvited guests will cause more itching and infection as they feed on your pet’s blood.
How to remove the matted fur
Now that you understand why matted fur is harmful to your kitty, it is time to get rid of it! Dematting may not be fun or comfortable for your cat, so you will need to have a lot of patience.
You can try one or a combination of the methods below to remove knots and tangles at home:
1. Brush the matted fur with wide-toothed comb
Using a wide-toothed comb for short-haired cats should be enough to remove small knots or clumps. This comb is preferred over a regular comb as it comes with bigger gaps between the teeth, making the dematting process less painful for your cat. However, it may still cause a little discomfort, so make sure you do it slowly and carefully.
One tip to lessen the pain is to hold the matted fur closest to the skin while your other hand brushes the matted hair. Make sure to use quick motions to avoid too much tugging. The direction of your brush should be towards the tip of the hair and away from the skin. Always start detangling at the tip of the hair and then slowly comb back a little until the entire mass is removed.
2. Use a cat dematting spray or hair removal cream
Hair removal creams or dematting sprays specifically designed for cats are often the safest and most effective way to get rid of matted fur. They make the clumps come loose more easily and are less likely to cause any pain to your kitty.
These store-bought detanglers are straightforward to use. Simply apply the product to areas with matted hair and leave it on for around 15 minutes. Then brush the clumps using a wide-toothed comb. You should see the matted fur separate easily as you brush it away.
3. Remove the clumps using a homemade detangler for cats
If you don’t like store-bought detanglers and prefer natural treatments, you can make your own detangling spray at home using common household items. You can use olive oil, baby oil, or coconut oil to loosen the tangles and knots.
Apply a small amount of oil to the matted clumps and leave it for a few minutes to soften and lubricate the hair. Then gently brush the matted hair with a wide-toothed comb. Brush repeatedly and you should start seeing the clumps coming loose.
If you use olive oil or coconut oil, you can simply apply the product on the clumped hair and leave it on for a few days. The knots should untangle by themselves over time. Olive oil and coconut oil are perfectly safe for cats and should not cause problems if ingested.
If you choose baby oil, you should use it with caution as it can make your cat sick if ingested. Apply only a small amount to detangle the mat, and massage it thoroughly into the fur until the matted hair softens. When you are done, make sure to remove the excess oil and rinse the area thoroughly.
4. Use clippers or an electric razor
Sometimes your feline friend might find dematting combs too painful and uncomfortable and could refuse to cooperate. If all of the methods above are too difficult or inconvenient for you and your cat, then clippers will offer the fastest solution. However, your cat may end up with a temporary bald patch. You can also seek assistance from a professional groomer to give your kitty a cute hairstyle so that the patches are less obvious.
Tips to prevent matted cat fur
Nothing works better than regular brushing and combing when it comes to preventing mats. Pay attention to areas that are prone to matting, such as the back, base of the tail, and chest. Constantly watch out for any knots or tangles and get rid of them right away before they turn into a big mass of matted fur.
And lastly, always keep your cat’s hair dry. Moisture can easily encourage the formation of lumps and attract bacteria or parasites. A blow dryer for your kitty may come in handy when spills happen, or after you have given her a bath.
Matted fur may not be very common among short-haired cats, but they can be susceptible, especially without proper grooming. This can lead to a lot of discomfort for your fur-kid, and neglecting it for long enough will cause small knots to grow into a mass of matted fur which is even more challenging to remove.
Maintaining your cat’s coat is extremely important to prevent infections and discomfort for your feline friend. Regular grooming combined with love and care should be sufficient to keep their coat looking great and tangle-free!
Image: istockphoto.com / Jollier_