How Does a Cat's Fur Get Matted?

By Juliette Halliwell

Matted fur may bring to mind a shabby outdoor cat caught in a rainstorm, but even meticulously clean indoor cats can be the victims of mats from time to time. Since your cat's coat goes everywhere with your cat, mats may form simply due to activity such as jumping, climbing or squeezing through tight crevices. Long-haired cats and outdoor cats are more prone to mats, but if your cat is older or has a condition that limits her ability to clean herself, she may be more susceptible to mats. If your cat's fur is seriously matted, consult a vet or groomer before attempting to remove mats.

Cats and Shedding

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Shedding is the catalyst for mat formation in both cats and dogs. Indoor cats who are regularly exposed to heat and artificial light versus natural light will shed much more frequently than wild cats who tend to shed on a seasonal basis. While most indoor cats are adept at cleaning themselves, it may be more difficult for a fluffier, long-haired feline to lick away all of the fur she sheds daily without a little help from her owner. Combined with daily movement, the excess fur will get worked into the cat's coat and causes matting.

Detecting Mats

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Mats may develop in any area where a cat has trouble cleaning, such as the underbelly, behind the legs or behind the ears. Particularly in long-haired cats, mats may not even be visible at first glance if they form in a cat's thicker undercoat. Therefore, regular grooming is the best method for prevention. Short-haired cats require less grooming, however daily brushing is essential to maintain a clean coat in long-haired cats. While daily brushing may at first feel like a chore for you and your cat, you will both benefit from it in the long term.

Complications of Mats

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Although mats may seem like an aesthetic problem, failing to remove them can endanger your cat's well-being. Since mats tangle into a cat's coat, they will pull on your cat's skin as it moves, causing pain and discomfort. If these areas are not taken care of, the skin can tear and even become ulcerated over time. If you have an outdoor cat, a rainy or snowy day may make your cat's cleaning routine difficult. Weather-related mats can pick up dirt and grime. If they are not cleared away, they may pose a risk for infection.

Grooming Mats

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Under regular circumstances, using a pin brush or similar tool to remove shedding will help to control mats. For minor mat removal, you can use a mat removal comb that has blades to gently work the mat apart. Do not use scissors to cut mats off your cat's fur, at the risk of harming your cat's delicate skin. recommends that "as a rule, mats bigger than your thumb need special care." If your cat is overweight, consistently has issues with mats or has a medical illness that may be interfering with her ability to clean herself, seek the advice of a vet or groomer so your pet can get the special care she needs.