What is the best way to remove mats in a cat’s coat?

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Mats are dense, tangled clumps that develop in a cat’s fur involving both the long outer hairs and the soft undercoat. Consequently, mats lie very close to the cat’s skin, often pulling and causing considerable discomfort. Cutting mats out without professional help is dangerous. Cats have very thin skin, which is easily damaged. For this reason, mats are a particularly problematic aspect of grooming, especially in long-haired breeds.

Handle mat removal as patiently as possible. The method that will cause the least amount of stress for the animal is to work slowly at the base of the mat with your thumb and forefinger. The mass of hair that makes up the matt is dead, and the tangle can be disengaged from the undercoat if sufficiently loosened, but for large mats, this can take several sessions over a period of days.

Never try to brush or comb the mats free. The action tugs at the cat’s skin and is not only painful, but can cause skin irritation and bleeding. A cat with mats is probably not going to be in a great mood anyway, and the more discomfort it feels, the more it will resist attempt to get the mats out.

With cases of excessive matting, it’s much better to seek the aid of your veterinarian or a professional groomer. It is likely the cat will have to be lightly anesthetized to lessen his anxiety and to protect all concerned. There are two approaches at this stage, trimming the edges of the mat with blunt-nosed scissors to loosen the mass and allow it to be pulled away, or to simply shave the cat’s coat.

In the long run, shaving may be the least traumatic option, especially if the cat is allowed time outdoors. The warmer months of the year are the worse for matting in long-haired cats because the mats tend to form around debris caught in the animal’s fur. Many owners have their long-haired cats shaved into a “lion cut” on an annual basis, which minimizes matting issues and is cooler for the cat in areas where the summers are particularly harsh.

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