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How to Remove Mats From a Long-Haired Cat

Picture of a long haired cat on the sofa

If you own a long-haired cat, you know first-hand how beautiful their fur can be when properly taken care of. Even if a cat grooms herself and the owner brushes her fur regularly, however, pesky mats in long-haired (and even in some shorter-haired) cats can crop up. There are right and wrong ways to deal with removing mats from a long-haired cat.  We will examine them here.

Why Do Cats Get Mats in their Fur?

A mat is a clump of knotted, entangled fur that can sometimes be painful or at least uncomfortable for your cat. Mats can cause a cat’s skin to become irritated or infected. They can also harbor oily odors. Giving a cat a bath, however, can make the mats tighten up and become worse and is therefore not recommended.

Mats are not necessarily a sign of poor grooming in a long-haired cat, but they can be. Both long- and short-haired indoor cats are prone to mats if they have a buildup of dander or dust on their fur. Cats who don’t feel well, whether they are older, have arthritis or dental issues, or are otherwise ill, may stop grooming for a period of them and, hence, be subject to accumulating mats in their fur. Cats who are overweight and have a difficult time grooming also may collect more mats in certain hard-to-reach areas of their bodies.

Don’t Use Scissors!

The number one rule in dealing with mats on long-haired cats is DO NOT USE SCISSORS or other sharp instruments to try to remove them! Cutting out the hair clumps can result in cuts to your cat’s skin and necessitate a vet visit.

Clippers are much safer to use to remove matted cat fur. If you find that the traditional, recommended methods for removing mats don’t work, take your cat to a groomer who is experienced in using clippers (which are really electric razors) and can cut the mats out. They will likely use a #10 blade to get under and cut through the matted fur much more easily.

While it’s best to let an experienced, professional groomer remove mats via clippers, some brave cat owners with steady hands have attempted this task themselves.  Remember, if you do attempt to use clippers to remove your cat’s matted fur yourself, you can easily damage your cat’s skin and cause pain to your furry friend. This is why most veterinarians caution against inexperienced cat owners trying this themselves.

Don’t Get the Matted Fur Wet!

Although you might not think this could occur, wetting your cat’s matted fur can make the mat even tighter and hard to comb through. Professional groomers have been known to use a special detangler spray to loosen the most stubborn mats. This is not recommended for cat owners to use at home, however, as detanglers can contain ingredients that can be toxic to your cat if you don’t know the right ones (professional detangling spray) to purchase.

Try Combing Your Cat’s Fur

One way to prevent, and get rid of, mats in your cat’s fur is to comb and brush it well. Regular brushing of your cat can help to prevent mats from forming in the first place. If your cat already has matted fur, gently use a wide-toothed comb to comb through existing mats. When the comb encounters a mat in the fur, hold the fur closest to your cat’s skin with your fingers, then try to brush or comb through the mat. This can help to avoid pulling at the mat and causing pain to your cat. Just as you would do with a toddler’s tangled hair, start at the end of the mat and work your way up through it. An undercoat comb can also help cats with thick undercoats by helping to prevent and remove mats.

If a wide-toothed comb doesn’t help, there are special mat combs that have been designed specifically to get through mats in the fur. This type of comb has small blades that cut the cat’s hair as you comb it. Just remember to be careful, as the tiny razor blades in the comb can also cut your cat’s skin if you don’t use the tool properly.

What Happens If I Accidentally Cut My Cat’s Skin?

If, despite the advice given here to safely remove mats in your cat’s fur, you accidentally cut your cat’s skin, don’t panic. Clean the wound with a bit of hydrogen peroxide diluted with water. You should take your cat to the vet if the wound looks more serious or is near a layer of muscle. If you aren’t sure if the cut is serious, err on the side of safety and take your cat to the vet. Be honest with your vet about how your cat was injured, as this will help him or her in closing an open wound.

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