Fun fact: the average cat has around 40 million hairs. And that's not counting all the hair on your sofa, clothes, carpet, and bed. Having that much hair on their body has got to be a maintenance nightmare. Which explains why cats spend so much of their time meticulously grooming themselves.
For some cats, no amount of self-grooming can prevent the dreaded 'M' word – matting! This is the ultimate bad hair day for a cat and, if left to worsen, can cause some severe health problems.
We've looked into the causes of matted cat hair, how to get mats out of cat fur, and how to prevent them in the first place. Read on as we untangle (da-doom tsh!) the truth about matted cat fur.
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Causes of matted cat fur
While most cats have a handle on their fur and manage to keep their coif tamed and in order, some things make matted cat fur more likely.
Usually, matting in cats happens in areas where there's a lot of friction. Around the collar, between the legs, under the chest, and under the tail. But other elements can make the problem much worse.
Read more: How To Help Your Cat Pass A Hairball
Ask any cat owner, and they will tell you that cats shed. A lot. When the hair that's fallen out gets stuck in your cat's fur, it can cause mats to form. If this hair isn't removed through brushing or self-grooming, it can get all tangled up and create mats.
As you'd expect, long-haired cats are undoubtedly prone to this kind of matting. But, owners of short-haired breeds shouldn't sigh in relief just yet. Short-haired breeds can also develop mats because their undercoat is often much thicker than longer-haired breeds.
Certain cat breeds have a thicker undercoat which can make matting of cat fur more likely. These breeds include:
- Russian blues;
- Maine coons.
You know how when you visit a humid place, your hair begins to frizz and become completely unmanageable? Yeah, your cat's fur is not immune to the effects of humidity. Humid weather combined with peak shedding season in spring and fall makes for ideal matting conditions.
Excess skin oil
Cats prone to excess body oil are also at greater risk of developing mats. Unneutered male cats and cats with hyperthyroid disease tend to have oilier skin which leads to matting.
According to research, as cats age, their flexibility and mobility may decrease, leading them to become a little less thorough with their grooming. Hard-to-reach places are the first to get cut from the grooming schedule. Those areas that commonly require agility to reach include the area around the base of the tail, around the hips, and the patch of fur on the back.
Who doesn't love a chubby cat? But unfortunately, cats with a little extra cushioning around their middle tend to be less flexible and less able to reach all areas of their body when grooming. Excess body weight also does tend to lead to an overproduction of oils which can also exacerbate the problem.
How to prevent cat mats
Matted fur is more than just a cosmetic issue. Matting can lead to dry and flakey skin, resulting in air and moisture being prevented from reaching the skin. If left to worsen, the skin can even become irritated.
Depending on the location of the matting on your cat, like around the tail-end of your precious feline, matting becomes a trap for urine and feces, which can cause infections and harbor parasites.
When it comes to matted fur, prevention is definitely better than cure. So, what can you do to proactively manage cat matting of fur? What are the ways in which you can prevent matted cat fur?
Tackle the tangles regularly to avoid them becoming a matted mess. A good brushing session a few times a week can significantly minimize the development of mats, and it has the added benefit of offering some good bonding time.
Keep an eye on your cat's grooming
Cats typically spend around 5 hours a day grooming. When your feline friend's habits begin to slip, you may need to pick up the slack. Especially if your cat is particularly floofy.
Changes in grooming habits can also indicate that something is up medically. So, this may also be an excellent cue to visit the vet for a check-up. In the meantime, you can track your cat's behavior and grooming rituals via Petcube's interactive cat camera that helps you stay connected to your pet, wherever you are.
Remove tangles timeously
One small tangle can quickly become a matted mess in long-haired or very fluffy cats. Make sure you've got the right tools for the job too.
A long-tooth comb will really get down into that undercoat to untangle things. Blunt-ended scissors are the safest way to cut out any problem areas.
Cats with a very dense undercoat can benefit from professional de-shedding. This can be carried out up to four times a year to thin out a thick undercoat and keep matting at bay.
Healthy skin and hair can significantly reduce the likelihood of matting. Of course, a good diet will keep your feline trim and able to do some serious grooming on their own. But a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids will improve the quality of your cat's skin and hair.
Treating matted cat hair at home
Treating matted cat hair at home can go one of two ways: you get it spot-on (using our handy advice below, of course), or it rapidly devolves into something resembling a rodeo. In the second instance, you're going to need something to sterilize the scratches and bite marks, and then you will need the number of a good pet groomer to take control of the situation.
Ok, let's get to business. This is how you get mats out of cat fur:
1. Set up your area
Gather all the things you'll need so that they're within easy reach. Tools include blunt-nosed scissors, a fine-toothed comb, cornstarch or talcum powder, a spray bottle with some conditioner, and cat treats.
2. Prepare the matted area
Sprinkle the mat with talcum powder or cornstarch and begin working on the mat with your fingers. Delicately work the mat away from the skin.
At this point, your cat may begin to resist. Use your treats and a soothing voice to calm them.
3. Cut the mat out
Once the mat has been worked away from the skin, you can slide the blunt-nosed scissors in and begin cutting the mat. Try not to pull or tug at the hair. Keep going until all the mats have been removed.
Remember to praise and soothe your kitty. Reward them for staying still with treats.
4. Comb and brush
After you've cut off the worst of the mats, spend some time dealing with any other tangles that you see that have the potential to become mats. Spray the tangles with conditioner mixed in water or some oil (we prefer olive oil) to help work them out.
5. Treats and praise and love
It's essential that you speak to your cat the entire time in a soothing and calm voice. Reward them often with treats, so they associate the experience positively. Screaming, raising your voice, and handling your cat roughly will only result in your cat resisting you.
- Don't bathe your cat before trying to de-mat their fur.
- Don't force the situation too much – if the kitty hates it, call a groomer. It's not worth ruining your bond with your floofy friend.
- Don't suffer needlessly; help is at hand. If your cat is having a rough time, or if this process becomes overly stressful for you both or time-consuming – call in a groomer.
If your cat has stopped grooming, it may be a sign that something else is going on. If you've signed up with Online Vet by Petcube, you can always discuss your concerns with the team of licensed veterinarians. This team of vets is available 24/7 to answer your questions and address any concerns you have regarding your pet's health.
The team is there to answer your queries in real-time and can advise you on whether you need to get your beloved fur kid to a vet. The online vet might require you to send photos or videos to help them better advise on your concerns.
This fantastic service is a wonderful tool for pet parents, and it only costs $20 a month.
Olive oil for matted cat fur – does it work?
One of the most popular home remedies for cat mats is oil, as this helps the hair fibers glide past one another, making them easier to work free.
Some pet parents will recommend baby oil. But as cats groom themselves, olive oil for cat mats is a safer, less chemical option.
Olive oil is useful for mild tangles but it won’t resolve serious mats – those need to be cut out.
How to get mats out of cat fur?
Prevention is better than cure. Regular brushing and grooming can prevent mats from forming. Small tangles can be combed out using conditioner or oil, but severe mats must be cut out.
Why does cat fur get matted?
Mats often form when hairs shed from the undercoat get caught in the topcoat. Dirty or oily fur is more prone to developing mats. Areas of your cat's body that experience lots of friction, like the armpits or tummy area, are at greater risk for developing mats.
My cat has matted fur on its back and dandruff – why?
The appearance of scales or flaky skin resembling dandruff is a common side effect of matted fur. Flakiness can result when the mat prevents air and moisture from reaching the skin. If your cat is old or overweight, the area on their back becomes difficult to reach when grooming and so you may need to lend a hand.