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A cat’s coat of fur is one of the best things about them. Usually, their fur coat is silky smooth and constantly clean due to the huge amount of time that cats spend grooming. Yet, when their fur starts to get matted, it is an obvious change and can be a cause for concern.
The main cause for matted cat fur is down to a change in your cat’s grooming habits.
The bristles on their tongue usually comb the hair and prevent it from getting tangled, while simultaneously removing any dirt. Grooming also helps to move oils along the strands of hair to keep it moisturized and healthy. Therefore, if your cat starts self-grooming less, its fur will start matting.
Did your cat just get lazy? Or is there an underlying health condition that could have initiated a change in their hygiene habits? Perhaps they simply feel unwell and grooming is on the bottom of their to-do list! Is there anything else that causes matted cat fur?
In this article, I will run through all the reasons why your cat’s fur looks matted and separated, as well as how to remove matted cat hair and help prevent it in the future.
What Causes Matted Cat Fur?
Matted cat hair is a condition where clumps of a cat’s fur become severely knotted and entangled. Initially, these tangles will start loose, but over time they will get both tighter and larger, pulling in more hair and becoming near-impossible to come loose. This can cause several major health concerns, which I cover further on down the article.
Matted fur mostly occurs in long-haired breeds such as Persians, Maine Coons, and Ragdolls.
On the other hand, Siamese cats or British Shorthairs are less likely to suffer from matted fur, even if their grooming habits do go out the window. That being said, their fur can still become separated and full of dust and dander, especially if they are indoor cats.
So, what causes matted cat fur? There are a couple of things that could be causing your cat’s coat to clump and tangle.
1. Shedding of Their Undercoat
Cats are more likely to become matted when they are shedding their undercoat. This is normal and healthy behavior and helps your cat adapt to the temperature changes that come along with the changes in season. In the winter, your cat’s coat will be at its thickest but come spring this will be shed in preparation for summer.
Long-haired cats shed their fur a lot more often than short-haired cats, which is partially why long-haired breeds are more prone to matted fur. Also, if you have a cat that is predominantly an indoor-only pet, they will shed a little all year round, rather than in one go. Therefore, indoor cats may be less prone to matting because of consistently shedding a little, rather than a lot.
While it is normal for cats to shed their fur, the undercoat can become caught in the topcoat during the process and become tangled, leading to matting.
2. Frequent Movement
Matted clumps of fur also form when the fur is rubbed together through movement. This explains why the most common places on your cat’s body for the fur to mat is in areas that have a lot of high friction, such as:
- Between their hind legs. This area rubs together when your cat walks, so if you have a long-haired outdoor cat, you may find matted fur here. Their chest may also become matted for the same reason.
- Under the collar. Matted fur under the collar often goes unnoticed as it is covered up, but your cat’s collar will be gently rubbing on the fur underneath it which could cause matted hair over time.
The longer the cat hair in these high friction areas, the more likely it is that it will tangle and mat. This again helps to explain why long-haired cats are more likely to become matted than short hair cats. But remember, short-haired cats are not exempt!
3. Lack of Self-Grooming
Although shedding their undercoat and frequent movement can both cause cat hair to become matted, the most common reason for matted fur in cats is changes in their grooming habits. This is especially likely if your cat doesn’t usually have matted fur, but has developed it suddenly or as an older cat.
Usually, cats will use the bristles on their tongues to comb through their fur and remove any dirt and excess oils. However, if your cat stops or reduces the time spent grooming, their hair will become matted. It is essentially like us not brushing our hair for weeks on ends – pretty quickly it will become a matted and tangled mess.
A lack of self-grooming can also make the tangles caused by shedding worse. Your cat will rely on grooming to remove the loose undercoat, and so if they stop grooming themselves then more fur will stay lodged within their top coat and become tangled, leading to matting.
Lack of self-grooming is a cause for concern and is not usually just down to your cat becoming lazy. Cat’s are extremely clean creatures, so if they have given up on self-grooming then you know that something is wrong! Let’s look at some of the reasons why your cat has stopped showing as much self-care.
Why Has My Cat Stopped Self-Grooming?
As I mentioned, there is a clear link between personal hygiene and a beautiful coat of fur. Cats are naturally fantastic self-groomers and will use their tongue and flexibility to their advantage to ensure that no spot goes unclean. However, when your cat stops self-grooming, its fur can become dirty, entangled, and matted.
Regardless of whether you have a long-haired cat or a short-haired cat, the question we really want to know the answer to is why has my cat stopped self-grooming? There are actually several reasons why self-grooming has taken a back seat, causing your cat’s fur to become matted.
1. They’re Obese or Overweight
Cats are flexible creatures, which hugely works to their advantage when it comes to grooming. It means they can configure themselves into all kinds of unimaginable positions and successfully clean themselves from the tip of their nose to their tail.
However, cats that are overweight or obese may have lost some of their flexibility and are too chubby to be able to reach all parts of their body. It’s not that they don’t want to self-groom, just that their weight means it’s not physically possible.
If your cat is overweight, you will want to help them lose weight by putting them on a diet and encouraging them to be active. Always do this with the advice from your vet as any drastic changes could cause other issues. There could also be an underlying health condition causing the increase in weight, so always speak to your vet first.
2. They Have Dental Issues
Your cat relies on its mouth and its tongue to self-groom. Therefore, if your cat is suffering from any dental issues, they may avoid cleaning themselves.
There is a huge range of dental issues that could cause your cat to stop grooming. It could be down to infection of inflammation of the mouth or gums, or tooth and gum disease. If your cat has oral tumors, these are also a common source of oral pain and frequently go unnoticed by owners as they often develop underneath the tongue.
Even something like a sore jaw could also deter your cat from grooming and be the reason why they have matted fur. They won’t want to lick their fur, detangle their hair, and clean up matted hair if it hurts them each time they open their mouth!
You will likely notice other symptoms if your cat does have dental issues, such as a reduction in appetite and drooling. Again, a trip to the vet is advised so they can determine the condition causing mouth pain and prescribe an effective treatment. Once your cat is feeling better, their grooming habits will likely return and they will no longer get matted cat fur.
3. They Suffer from Arthritis
If you have an older cat that has matted fur, they may have stopped self-grooming because of pain, such as pain caused by arthritis. Arthritis is common in older cats, especially obese senior cats. This is where they have painful and swollen joints that become sore and stiff, and in felines, it commonly affects the spine.
If you notice matted hair on your cat’s rear only, arthritis in the spine is the most likely cause. Because of the pain in your cat’s joints when they try to self-groom, they avoid it. This can lead to excess dirt becoming lodged in their fur and increased tangling.
There is no cure for arthritis, so the best way to keep your cat’s fur smooth, silky, and clean is to use a wide-tooth comb for cats and take over the grooming responsibilities for your feline.
4. They’re Feeling Stressed Out
It is also possible that stress can make your cat self-groom less, but this does depend on each individual cat. Some cats will groom excessively if they are stressed, which will cause bald patches in their fur and lead to hair loss. However, some cats will stop grooming altogether.
If you think the changes in your cat’s grooming habits could be stress-related, think about anything that has changed recently. This could be something as small as there being a new person or pet in your home, loud noises such as a fireworks display or building work, or even just a tweak to their usual routine.
Cats are sensitive creatures, and whereas a change may feel small and insignificant to you, it can trigger anxiety in our furry friends! Try reassuring your cat and sticking to a routine so that they can relax. Having plenty of places for them to hide if they are feeling vulnerable can also be a huge help.
5. They’re Feeling Under the Weather
It is also possible that there is no major issue with your cat, such as ongoing arthritis or obesity, but rather that your feline is just feeling a little under the weather. Just as when we feel sick we might lose interest in activities we usually enjoy, so do your cats. Self-grooming is one of the first things to go.
If your cat is feeling nauseous or sick, you will probably notice other symptoms too such as:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Larger puddles of urine in their litter box
- Sickness or diarrhea
- Changes to mood or behavior
A whole host of things could be causing your cat to be sick. They could have simply eaten something that disagreed with them, or there could be a more serious underlying condition. Either way, take your cat for a check-up so that the cause of sickness can be treated. Once your cat is feeling its usual self again, it’ll be self-grooming and free from matted fur in no time.
How to Prevent Matted Cat Fur
Preventing matted cat hair is much easier than removing it. If you have a long-haired cat, know your cat is shedding, or have noticed a reduction in self-grooming, then it may be time for you to step in. Therefore, follow these tips to help your cat groom and keep matted cat hair at bay!
1. Regularly Brush Your Cat
Brushing your cat regularly is the best way to prevent your cat’s fur from becoming matted. This is especially true if you have a long-haired cat breed, as long-haired cats are more prone to getting matted fur and it often becomes more severe. Even if your long-haired cat is grooming themselves, they may still need an extra helping hand!
Grooming your cat also helps to prevent matting that is caused by a lack of self-grooming or by shedding. You can help detangle the hair, spread the natural oils along the surface, and clean away any pieces of dirt or loose bits of fur that your cat has missed.
Most cats will love being groomed, but ideally, wait until your cat is relaxed and start brushing them slowly and gently. When brushing, you need to be sure you brush your cat all over, especially in places prone to matting, such as their rear or the fur under their collar. For this reason, smaller brushes tend to be better than larger ones as you can easily reach all the more difficult places.
Always brush from tip to tail, the same as you would when stroking your cat, and if your cat gets stressed out leave it for now and try again tomorrow. It may take a little getting used to but will make your cat happier and healthier in the long run. Ideally, you should establish a regular brushing routine to help your cat get used to being groomed and relieve any stress and anxiety.
2. Hire a Professional Groomer
If your cat does not respond well to brushing, or if they have long fur which is particularly prone to getting knotted and tangled, you may prefer to hire a professional cat groomer. These people will know all the tips and tricks, ensuring that your cat gets groomed properly.
If you do use a professional groomer, be sure to ask about their methods. This way, you can make sure that they are going the job properly and you can also pick up some tips of your own!
You could also ask for your groomer to trim your cat’s fur if you have a long-haired breed. The shorter their fur, the less prone it is to mat. Plus, you don’t have to go for an all-over trimmed look. Some skilled groomers will be able to style your cat’s fur to look super cute and trendy too!
3. Catch Tangles & Knots Early
If you cannot commit to regular or daily brushing, and don’t want to take your cat to a professional groomer, the least you should do is keep an eye out for tangles and knots and catch them early on. Even if you do groom your cat regularly, tangles can still form in between grooming sessions.
The earlier you catch a tangle, the easier it will be to remove and vice versa. Therefore, get into the habit of checking your cat’s coat for knots every time you pet or groom her. Problem areas should be your main focus, which includes places like the groin and rear, under the collar, between the back legs, and behind the ears.
This is more important for a long hair cat as matted fur is more common and can help catch small tangles. You can rid of them early on before they become hard-to-deal-with mats. Also, this will give you a chance to check for any skin damage too, such as cuts, bruises, or swelling.
4. Feed Your Cat a Healthy Diet
It is also important that you feed your cat a healthy balanced diet. This can help to keep your cat a healthy weight and lower the risk of obesity. As overweight cats are more prone to matting as they cannot self-groom well, ensuring your cat is fit and healthy can keep their fur coat looking clean and smooth for longer.
Obesity is also a major risk factor for arthritis. The more overweight your cat, the more pressure they on their joints, which will cause them to weaken more quickly than they would otherwise. While older cats are still prone to arthritis even at a healthy weight, ensuring your cat maintains a good weight can help prolong the onset.
The more balanced and nutritious the diet you feed your cat, the healthier their coat will be too. They especially need certain oils, Omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin E. These can help ensure healthy skin and a healthy fur coat. Speak to your vet if your cat has very problematic hair as you may be able to alter something in their diet to improve their coat.
While matted fur is down to a lack of self-grooming rather than an issue with the hair itself, healthy hair is more oiled and naturally smooth which can help to prevent knots from forming as much. If clumps of fur do get tangled, healthy hair will less likely become matted.
How to Remove Matted Cat Hair
So, we have established that a cat’s hair becomes matted because of excessive dirt, knotting, and a lack of grooming, and we’ve discussed why your cat could have stopped self-grooming in the first place. We’ve also talked about how you can prevent mats from forming.
But what if your cat has matted hair right now? How can you remove matted cat hair?
Dematting a cat is not a nice experience and needs to be done correctly. Otherwise, it can cause your feline pain or damage their coat altogether! Thankfully, there are several ways that you can remove matted cat hair, from using a dematting comb for cats to homemade detangler spray for cats, and everything in between!
Try each of the below tools and see which one works for you.
1. Use a Wide Tooth Comb
If you have a short-haired cat with matted fur or not a severely matted cat, you may simply be able to brush the matted clumps out by using a wide-tooth comb. Always opt for a wide-tooth comb over a regular brush as the bigger gaps between the teeth will help ease the pain. However, simply tugging at the tangles can still cause a lot of pain for your feline!
Therefore, follow these steps to ensure the process is as comfortable as possible.
- Always start by holding the fur closest to your cat’s skin in one hand, and using your other hand to brush the mat out. This will help to reduce how much tugging there is on the skin and help reduce discomfort.
- Use short and quick motions to pick at the hair, rather than one long hard tug. Tugging can really pull your cat’s fur and cause them pain, but smaller and quicker motions are more bearable.
- Always brush away from the skin towards the tip of the hair. If not, you will just be pushing the tangle more deeply and backcombing the hair rather than detangling it. You need to push the knots towards the ends of the strands so they can be removed.
- Start at the hair furthest away from your cat’s skin. If you start brushing from your cat’s skin, you will be attempting to brush through the entire mat at once! However, by starting at the end you can detangle this first, then move the comb back a little and tackle the next bit. Repeat this until the entire mat has been removed.
- Never force the matted hair out. If you have a severely matted cat, combing like this won’t be enough to remove the clump and you will need to use another method. Never force the knots out as this will just hurt your cat.
If brushing your cat’s matted fur doesn’t work, try one of the methods below instead.
2. Use a Dematting Comb
If you have a severely matted cat, your first option is to use a dematting comb for cats. Dematting combs are similar to regular combs as they have a handle and a brush head. However, where the teeth of the comb usually are your will instead find thin blades.
This tool brushes through the mat while simultaneously sawing through and cutting out any clumps that won’t come loose from brushing. For obvious reasons, a dematting comb for cats with matted hair is a dangerous tool if not used correctly as they are sharp. Therefore, always ensure your cat is completely relaxed before using this comb and is used to being regularly brushed first.
For this same reason, dematting combs are best to get rid of matted fur in long-haired breeds such as Persians or Ragdolls where the matted clump is longer than it is wide. This way, the comb can be held further away from your cat’s skin so accidental cuts are less likely.
3. Use Detangler for Matted Fur
Another option is to use a store-bought matted cat hair removal cream or a detangling spray. These products are designed to help break the bonds between the hair that makes up the mats in your cat’s coat, helping them to come loose.
Many people prefer using a detangler for matted fur over a dematting comb as it is a lot safer and is less likely to cause your cat any pain. However, always make sure to use products that are specifically designed for cats. Otherwise, the product could cause some irritation on their skin.
To use a matted hair removal cream or detangling spray, apply the product on the mat. Most then require your to leave it on for around 15 minutes so that it can work its magic. After this time, brush your cat with a wide-tooth comb and the matted clumps should come loose much more easily.
4. Use Homemade Detangler Spray for Cats
You don’t need to head to the pet store to purchase a matted cat hair removal cream; you can create a homemade detangler spray with regular items found around your home. Not only will this save you an outing, but many owners prefer using more natural ingredients. So, if you’re more environmentally-conscious, homemade detangler sprays are a great option.
Here are some products that you should have lying around your home already that can help detangle your cat’s matted fur.
If you have a cat with matted fur, olive oil is one of the more popular home methods of removal. In fact, detangling matted hair with olive oil is extremely effective, quick to use, and cheap! Olive oil is also completely safe for cats and won’t cause any skin irritation.
To use olive oil to detangle your cat’s fur, simply massage a teaspoon of olive oil into each of the matted clumps and leave it. The oil will make the hair extremely moisturized and smooth, and the knots should just slip out by themselves over the next few days. You can brush gently with a wide-tooth comb to help if you wish.
When in doubt, it is always best to apply a little too much olive oil than not enough. As it is safe for cats, excess oil won’t cause any damage or discomfort and can also be safely ingested, but you’ll have a better chance of getting rid of those mats for good!
Another natural remedy and matted cat hair solution is coconut oil. The premise behind this is the same as with olive oil – the oil will coat the hair and make it smooth and slippery, helping the tangles to fall out by themselves over time.
Take a little coconut oil and work it into the matted clumps using your thumb and forefinger. Once the hair seems substantially coated, you can leave it for a few days, over which time the mats should become detangled. If it’s not quite removed after three days, you can add a little more coconut oil and repeat the process. Again, gently brushing can also help.
Coconut oil is also 100% natural, non-toxic, and safe for cats.
Baby oil is a common household item that can also be used as a matted cat hair removal solution. It also works to soften and lubricate the matted hair which helps it to detangle, so massage a little into your cat’s matted coat using your fingers until it is well coated.
Unlike olive oil and coconut oil, baby oil is not 100% natural and is intended for use in humans rather than cats. For this reason, be sure to not apply as much and to continue working the baby oil into the fur and gently combing through the mat until it comes loose.
Baby oil is designed to be gentle enough for use on babies, and should not cause any skin irritation. However, baby oil works best on long hair cats with matted fur as you can keep the product away from their skin. Additionally, baby oil can cause sickness if your cat ingests it, so be sure to massage it all into the hair and rinse any remaining oil off once the mat is removed.
5. Hire a Professional
If nothing else works and you have a severely matted cat, you may wish to take your cat to a professional.
Most mats will only be affecting your cat’s fur and the skin underneath with be healthy. If this is the case, a professional cat groomer will be able to help remove the matted clumps of hair. They will either comb through the hair while using a combination of matted cat hair solutions and detanglers or use clippers to gently cut the matted area out.
If your long-haired cat regularly gets matted fur, you may wish to speak to the groomer and discuss whether there is some style that they can cut the fur into all over the help prevent mats from forming. However, any fur that they do have to cut off will grow back over time, so don’t worry if your cat looks a little strange with a bald patch for now!
While professional cat groomers can detangle and remove most matted cat fur, you may need to see your vet if the condition of your cat’s fur is affecting their skin. Your vet will be able to examine your feline and prescribe a treatment to cure the skin irritation or inflammation.
Also, mats that are so tight to your cat’s skin that you cannot get your fingers of a comb underneath will also need to be removed by a vet, usually under sedation. They will need to be cut out, but it is too dangerous to try this at home as you could easily cut and hurt your cat. If this sounds like the situation you’re dealing with, definitely leave it to a professional.
What Are the Dangers of Matted Cat Hair?
A cat’s coat needs to be kept in good condition and any matted fur has to be removed as soon as possible. Yes, matted fur looks unsightly, but there are also several dangers of having matted and tangled fur which can cause pain, discomfort, and health issues for your cat.
When the fur first starts to become matted, it causes little harm. However, if clumps are left in their coats, they will trap more dirt and become more entangled, causing the clump to become larger and harder to remove. Once the matted clump reached this stage, it can:
- Pull on the skin and cause pain and discomfort. The more tightly knotted the fur gets, the more it tugs on the surrounding skin. While initially the pain will be mild, it will get worse as the matted cat fur worsens, potentially leading to mood and behavioral changes, such as increased stress and anxiety, loss of appetite, and not using their litter box.
- Cause sores and bleeding of the skin, leading to abscesses and bacterial infection. As the skin continues to be tugged on, sores may develop or the skin may split. If bacteria enter these open wounds, your cat can develop a pocket of pus under the skin called an abscess which can see the infection spread around the body with serious consequences.
- Act as a breeding ground for parasites. Fleas and ticks will love hiding in your cat’s matted fur and it acts as the ideal place for them to breed. These parasites will continually bite your pet, causing discomfort and itching. Untreated bites can also become infected and make your cat sick. Any feces or urine that gets trapped deep within the matted clump will attract flies, which can also breed in the matted hair. This will cause irritation, itching, and in worse cases an insect infestation.
- Affect circulation and cause bruising. While the clumps become more matted and tangled, the skin below may also become twisted and blood vessels can become squashed. This can affect your cat’s circulation, which can make it hard for them to control their internal temperature and affect their extremities such as their tail and ears. You may also notice bruising of the surrounding skin.
- Cause difficulty when moving, depending on where the matted clumps are. If your pet has a large and hard clump of matted fur in between their hind legs, it may make walking, moving, or even going to the bathroom more challenging and painful. Matted fur on your cat’s face or neck could also prevent them from eating or breathing properly.
Obviously, we would wish none of these things on our cats and want them to be as happy and healthy as possible. Therefore, it is so important to prevent matted cat hair where possible. When mats do occur, get rid of them as soon as possible to prevent any of these complications from developing.
Matted cat hair is where clumps of fur become severely knotted and tangled together, trapping dirt inside. Mats can occur in long-haired cats such as Maine Coons, Ragdolls, and Himalayan cats quite easily and just through their day-to-day life. However, matted fur is more commonly caused by a lack of grooming, and can occur in short-haired breeds.
Preventing matted fur is crucial and can be done by regularly grooming your cat, feeding them a balanced diet, and catching any tangles that do form early. That being said, if a matted patch of fur has gone unnoticed, you can remove it at home using one of the above methods or seek help from a professional.
Remember, while matted cat hair is not a huge problem in itself, it can lead to several serious issues. Therefore, effective prevention and treatment are essential in your cat’s health and happiness, so don’t neglect those mats!