How to Remove a Cat?s Mats

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains why mats form and how to prevent them.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Q: My 12-year-old, semi-longhaired calico cat, Simon, is an indoor cat and never goes outside. For the past several months, Simon's hair has matted up really badly in about a dozen spots, with the mats coming very close to the skin. The mats are on his sides and belly. I am afraid of cutting them below the mat with scissors for fear of catching the skin.

What has caused this, how can I remove or separate the mats without hurting him, and how can I prevent this from occurring again? Both Simon and I would appreciate your suggestions, as he is not thrilled about them. Feeling these mats when you hold him is not pleasant either.

A: When a cat’s mats have managed to grow to a point where they are directly adjacent to the skin, it is almost impossible to comb them out, even in the most agreeable of cats.

You need to take him to a professional groomer or to your veterinarian, where the mats can be shaved off. Left untreated, the skin beneath the mats can become irritated and scaly, and a skin infection could develop.

Once the mats are shaved and your cat is free of them, the only way to prevent them from occurring in the future is to brush and comb your cat on a regular basis. Some cats enjoy this, while others don’t. Do your best. If your cat won’t allow you to brush very well or very often, you may need to bring your cat to a professional groomer on a somewhat regular basis. Most longhaired cats are a bit higher maintenance than shorthaired cats, as you’ve discovered.

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Reader Comments

Sheryl    Casa Grande, AZ

7/15/2008 7:12:14 PM

Good information.

Jenny    Portland, OR

7/14/2008 9:14:44 PM

This is very helpful to those who don't know.

Cathy    Kennesaw, GA

7/14/2008 2:10:07 PM

I have a shorthair cat that nonetheless has a dense undercoat that can mat up pretty well. ...Sometimes I think he gets peeved at Mommy and goes to work with a set of knitting needles to get it all matted up LOL... Just working carefully with a comb and small pair of scissors, if the mat is pretty well stuck, seems to work.

Donna    Austin, TX

7/14/2008 8:24:25 AM

This can be a problem in a shelter setting when there isn't one person caring for a long-haired cat and grooming it consistently. It becomes very important for staff and volunteers to make a point of checking those kitties frequently and for the volunteers to groom them regularly. It's the volunteers who have the time to do that; the staff, as a rule, doesn't have that luxury.

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