How does a cat develop mats in her fur?

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A mat is a tangled clump of fur that lies close to the cat’s skin. It is made up of the longer, outer hairs of the coat, but also draws in the short, soft undercoat. For this reason, mats are uncomfortable and even painful for the cat. If they are especially dense, the mats pull at the skin as the cat moves. Skin irritation may be the result, especially if the cat scratches excessively, and as the mats get worse, so will the cat’s mood.

This is why mats represent such a tricky grooming issue. If the cat is already unhappy, it’s certainly not going to appreciate attempts to comb out the mats, which actually is the wrong approach to solving the problem. Combing or brushing once the mats are in place will only hurt the animal more, and increase its irritation. Trying to remove the mats by cutting is dangerous. A cat’s skin is thin and the risk of harming the animal is considerable.

In severe cases, the owner may have no choice but to take the cat to the veterinarian or to a professional groomer to be shaved. If the cat is contentions, light anesthesia may be required.

To avoid matting problems in long-haired cats, brush the animal every few days with a stiff brush. This needs to be a complete brushing, that addresses all areas of the coat including the tail. It’s important with long-haired cats to begin this routine early so the cat associates the activity as a pleasurable time. Do be aware that the flanks are an erogenous zone in male cats, particularly those who are unaltered, and excessive stimulation in that area can cause the cat to bite.

Wet fur is more prone to matting, so if a cat is exposed to the elements, towel off the cat as soon as possible and brush his coat until it is thoroughly dry. If you have a long-haired cat who is allowed to go outside, consider having the animal clipped each spring to avoid matting and the associated problem of debris getting caught in his fur.

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