Why is My Cat’s Fur Matted?
There are a TON of reasons why your cat might be getting matted. Let’s talk about the most common one’s!
I hear the same phrase repeated by our 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!
Many cats cannot groom their coats because they have specifically been bred to have long, fluffy, luxurious coats. They physically can’t do it! 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.
If you let matting get out of control you’ll have to shave it out, but before you get to that point this is the comb we use for dematting in the salon. It’s available on the website for $14.99
Another cat groomer we know in Yuma, Arizona termed this kind of cat “Expert Level,” and we agree with that terminology. If you’ve never owned a Ragdoll, Persian, Himalayan, or Maine Coon- you need to do some research. Talk to a few experienced owners and find out how much time they invest in grooming their cat at home (if able), or how often they book appointments at the groomer. I’m of the mindset that anyone can do anything they set their mind to when it comes to their pets, so I’m definitely not trying to talk you out of these breeds, I’m just saying some people aren’t cut-out for home-grooming. If you don’t have anyone who will groom cats in your area, and you have a sneaking suspicion that I’m talking about YOU not being the grooming type… well maybe, just maybe- you should consider a short-haired cat (ya think?).
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!
Most cats who are chonky and matted look great on their front half- kinda like a guy with a mullet… It’s all business up front, but there is ONE HELLUVA RAGER going on in the back. Not just dirty, dandruffy, matted fur, but there will likely be excrement/urine issues going on as well. Cats don’t use toilet paper- they use their tongue (remember this next time you catch Fluffy drinking out of your water glass at night), so if they can’t reach their butt… things will happen. You can prevent some of this by putting kitty on a diet, regular combing back there, and daily or semi-weekly use of a good cat wipe back there. Shaving a poop path can do wonders- and if you don’t have a groomer at home you can certainly do it yourself!
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 ours 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. Phoebe has since passed on but she’s a great example a cat ‘aging out’ of grooming itself!
You’re one of the brave ones…(even though your parents called you something else) 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 after this point (unless you are a total bad-ass and if that’s the case call us because we NEED YOU), 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 soapy 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 may 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!
We’ve done a blog post about how to bathe your cat at home- it is one of the most popular posts we’ve ever done. So if I’ve convinced you to try this thing at home, make sure you read it first! It gives great tips (my favorite of which is the imbibing of liquid courage prior) that only someone who has been grooming cats all day every day for years would know.
Last, but certainly not least… the cats with mouth or nose issues. This is for sure the smallest category of matted cats, but we 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, we noticed the cat moving his mouth strangely every now and then. We 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!
Any irregularity of the mouth, nose, or throat can prevent a cat from grooming. This is an example of an obvious growth, but more subtle examples would be chronic herpes infection or low-grade asthma.
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. In any of these cases the underlying problem should be addressed with your veterinarian first (duh) before determining a plan of attack.
They just don’t want to.
I know there are probably a few more valid reasons, but I’ve seriously met a lot of cats who are perfectly capable of keeping themselves clean- they just don’t want to for whatever reason. I’ve also met plenty of cat owners that were just as capable– but for whatever reason didn’t attempt to groom their cat. Never underestimate apathy and the absolute devastation it can cause! Don’t be one of those helpless people! If you don’t have a groomer near you and you are physically able, you should help your apathetic cat out a little! You can do it!
Let us know in the comments section if your cat falls into one of these categories!
Shannon & Whitney
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2 thoughts on “On matted cats…”
Our PIA is a Siberian Forest cat. She looks just like Max. She loves her daily brushings, which keeps her fur soft with no mats . We started brushing her when she was a kitten and now she comes whenever I have her brush in my hand. Siberian’s are smart.
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They really are. We have a client who says his Siberian sits on a stool and watches him cook dinner every night… she doesn’t beg or anything- just watches intently!