Cats of any age, breed, or size can develop pesky mats that pet parents can remove using a cat conditioner and cat hair detangler. It's important to remove mats as soon as you notice them because they can lead to health conditions, like skin infections or lesions, and they can even be caused by underlying health conditions.
Why cats have matted hair
Though cats are known for cleaning themselves fastidiously, cats of all breeds can have matted hair — especially long-haired cats, like Persians and Maine coons. Long-haired cats obviously deal with this problem more often than short-haired cats, but all cats can develop matted hair due to their overall health, diet, or grooming.
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Mats can develop because of friction, like underneath a cat's collar, or because of health conditions, like diabetes. Older and overweight cats who are unable to properly groom themselves may also struggle with matted hair. Cats with arthritis may be unable to reach every area of their body, leading to mats.
When to see a professional
When you notice that your cat is having a recurring matted hair problem that even the best cat shampoo can't solve, it's time to talk to your veterinarian. Your cat may have an underlying health condition that's causing the problem.
Ignoring mats is not an option because mats don't go away on their own. Mats can hide pests, like fleas and ticks, and can cause skin problems.
Remove mats with cat conditioner
Step 1: Find the mats
Begin by running your fingers through your cat's coat to feel for any sections of matted hair. Feel along your cat's body, head, legs, and stomach. Identify areas of matted hair. If you feel something unusual, like a lump, swelling, or an abrasion, contact your veterinarian.
Step 2: Apply cat hair detangler
Once you've identified matted clumps of hair on your cat, start with one section at a time. Generously spray cat hair detangler on the section to help naturally loosen the fur. Never use human hair detangler, as it often contains ingredients that aren't suitable for cats.
Step 3: Keep a firm grip
Before you begin combing, make sure that your cat is properly secured. If your cat moves, jumps, or runs away during the grooming process, he could get hurt. Firmly hold the skin below the mat, placing your hand on the skin near the mat.
Step 4: Break up the matted fur sections
Next, you'll want to start breaking up the sections of matted fur. Always break large sections of matted hair into smaller tangles as much as possible.
Step 5: Apply cat conditioner
Generously apply cat conditioner to the section of matted hair. Only use conditioners created for cats, as those made for humans include ingredients that aren't good for cats. This conditioner will make the cat's fur soft and slippery, allowing your comb to glide through each strand.
Step 6: Gently comb matted fur
Gently comb the matted fur, starting with the tip of the fur farthest from your cat's skin. Combing the tip of your cat's fur will lessen the amount of pulling you have to do and makes it easier to move the comb through the fur over time. Use short strokes so you don't pull the skin.
Step 7: Rinse out the conditioner
Wipe your cat's combed fur with a lukewarm, wet washcloth to get rid of any conditioner. Finally, use a brush to brush out any loose fur.
Step 8: Reward your cat with treats and praise
Reward your precious cat with praise, pets, and treats at the end of your grooming session. Rewarding your cat's behavior positively reinforces your cat's good work and helps her look forward to future grooming sessions.
Step 9: Call a professional if needed
If at any point in the process you feel you can't take care of the mat or if you are having a difficult time handling your cat, talk to a professional pet groomer. Groomers can remove mats by combing or clipping and can handle sensitive areas, like the groin.
Step 10: Prevent matted hair with regular care
Your job isn't done when you've eradicated any matted fur. To prevent future cases of matted hair, regularly brush and comb your cat's fur on a weekly basis. Regularly run your fingers through your cat's fur, looking for any clumps of fur. This regular grooming routine will keep your cat looking fresh and gives you a chance to make sure he's in good health.