why is my cat’s fur matted
The short answer is: it needs a bath. The long answer- it’s a little more complicated than that!
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I hear the same phrase repeated by my clients Every. Single. Day. The actual wording of said phrase varies ever so slightly depending on the person, but the gist is always the same. “But I’ve never had to groom him- he always did it his (her) self!” or “This just happened overnight- she’s NEVER been matted before!” Of course my answer to this varies-the cats vary and the situations vary. Sometimes the answer is literally staring me in the face (I’ve seen a whopping tumor on a cat’s tongue), and other times there are more subtle clues (arthritis) that have to be investigated. The thing is, there are many, many reasons why a cat who has always had a smooth, shiny, coat suddenly doesn’t. So let’s talk about it!
Some cats cannot groom their coats because they have specifically been bred to have long, fluffy, luxurious coats. It doesn’t matter how young or healthy they are, their coats are just too much for them to handle without help. I’ve seen Persian kittens matted at five months old, and I mean badly matted. Any long-haired pure-bred cat who has been bred to be adorably fluffy is susceptible to becoming matted or even pelted. Can you help them at home? Yes, but that’s a different post. The moral here: if you buy a cat that was specifically bred to have a stunning coat, expect to see the groomer a lot, OR work very diligently on it at home.
Atlas is a Scottish Straight! He was bred (in-part) to have this amazing cottony fur, and he needs help keeping it combed and cleaned. He isn’t lazy, he isn’t old, and he isn’t sick. It’s just too much for his tiny little tongue!
Weight (Chonk Alert)
Cats are great at contorting themselves into virtual pretzels to groom. We’ve all seen them hunched over, one leg straight in the air, one leg stabilizing them from rolling over. It takes some mad skills to reach back there (kind of like putting suntan lotion on your own back)! If Fluffy has put on a few extra pounds, that yoga move he normally does to clean himself is going to be virtually impossible. The more chonk, the more matting. Combing these guys at home will definitely help- especially the short-haired ones. You probably didn’t think short-haired cats could get matted. Sit down on mamma’s lap and let me tell you a secret; I see matted short-haired cats every day. Wow- that felt good to get off my chest!
Max actually checks two boxes in the “easily matts” list. He is a pure bred (Siberian Forest Cat), and he’s a tad overweight (chonky). Look how mad he was in the before photo!
No- age is not a disease, but it is a factor when it comes to hygiene, in both people and cats. Has anyone’s Dad or Granddad started wearing the same clothes every day? Not showering as much? Doesn’t really give a shit what they look like anymore? The same thing happens with your cat! Your cat will in all likelihood, reach a point where it doesn’t feel like taking care of its fur anymore. Done. Fini. End Scene. Maybe they have a little bit of arthritis in their legs, maybe they are slightly dehydrated from underlying kidney issues (common), and maybe they just don’t freakin’ feel like it anymore (like Grandpa)! Give ’em a break, they earned it.
Phoebe was a regular customer of mine for years. She was in her upper teens and had a pretty bad case of arthritis, so she could not take care of herself anymore. Her mom brought her in every 6 weeks so that the groom was easy peasy for her. I would NOT have been able to shave this cat if her parent’s had let her get extremely matted. She would have had to go to the vet and be fully sedated. I just heard of Phoebe’s passing today- and she inspired this blog post.
You’re one of the brave ones… you decided to bathe your cat at home and nothing is going to stop you! You place them in the sink, turn the water on slowly, and everything seems to be going fine until- BAM it’s not! After an epic battle he launches into the air, hits the ground running, and proceeds to find the exact middle of the underneath of your bed. No blow-drying or combing occurs, and congratulations; you have a matted cat. Or maybe you aren’t the brave one, not at all in fact. But Fluffy likes to hang out in the shower and drink the little bit of water on the floor after you get out. If he’s crouching down while doing it then his whole underside is getting wet, including backs of legs and bottom of the tail. The works, basically. Congratulations; you have a matted cat.
Dirty fur matts easier than clean fur. It’s just an unfortunate fact. Your cat can do a decent job of keeping it’s fur clean if it is young, healthy, in good body condition, and hasn’t been bred to have a huge coat. Keeping that fur CLEAN, will prevent matting. Taking them to a cat groomer or even regular bathing at home (with proper drying and combing after) will ensure that the hair is squeaky clean, and won’t get matted. This is KEY! Don’t wait until the cat is dirty and matted to make an appointment! I can’t stress this enough y’all. The whole process is quick and easy if you prevent the matting from ever happening to begin with. How do you prevent the matting? Clean Fur. Say it again, LOUDER!
Last, but certainly not least… the cats with mouth or nose issues. This is for sure the smallest category of matted cats, but I still see a few every month for sure. “My cat has never had a mat before! I don’t understand!” said the frustrated owner. Maybe an hour or so into shaving this cat’s terribly matted coat, I noticed the cat moving his mouth strangely every now and then. I decided to take a further look and saw a growth the size of a marble under this poor guy’s tongue! This cat couldn’t groom anymore, even if it wanted to. Don’t worry, everything turned out ok and the growth was actually benign!
Other oral/nasal/pharyngeal issues will also stop a cat dead in it’s tracks when it comes to keeping clean. If a cat is extremely congested with mucous, has a polyp in its nose, or even has really bad teeth or gums, it might suddenly stop grooming itself, leading to severe matting or pelting. I know there are probably a few more good reasons too- let me know in the comments section of you think of any (Especially the weird ones-The weirder the better)!