8 min read

How To Deal With Matted Cat Hair

Before it gets worse 😫

Matted cat hair

It’s been a bit since you brushed your long-haired cat’s fur, and you’re starting to notice some serious tangles in her hair.

And not just regular tangles — they kind of look like balls of knots clinging to your cat’s skin.

These knots are actually matted cat hair, and they’re a total nuisance.

If you’re dealing with mats in your cat’s hair, don’t wait another minute. You’ll want to get those mats taken care of ASAP before they get worse.

So, how should you do it? The Dodo spoke with Daryl Conner, a certified cat groomer at Fairwinds Grooming Studio in Maine, to learn more.

Why matted cat hair is an issue

Matted cat fur is such a big issue because it’s actually painful for your cat and can cause her some pretty irritating skin issues.

“Matted cat hair can put stress on the skin by the tension it creates,” Conner told The Dodo. In other words, when hair is knotted together, it’s constantly pulling on her sensitive skin — ouch! In extreme cases, these mats can even cause open sores or tears in the skin.

Even when the matting isn’t that bad, it can prevent her skin from getting the airflow and moisture it needs to stay healthy. Without this exposure to oxygen and water, the skin can quickly become irritated.

“In mild cases [matted cat fur] can cause excessive flaking skin,” Conner added.

If you don’t take care of the mats ASAP, they can even attract parasites and cause skin infections by trapping in bacteria. Gross!

Why is my cat’s hair matted?

Matted cat hair happens when the loose fur from your cat’s undercoat gets trapped and tangled in your cat’s outer coat during shedding.

And when you’re not brushing your cat’s fur regularly, these tangles can easily turn into matted cat hair.

In North America, you’ll see this happening more often in the spring and fall, which is when cats typically shed more heavily.

“Mats are caused when the cat’s undercoat sheds out,” Conner said. “Cats shed a small amount of hair all the time, but normally a heavy shed happens seasonally.”

“Due to the heavy amount of undercoat coming out, some loose hairs become trapped in the longer guard hairs [coarse hair found in the outer coat], and tangles form,” she added.

Matted cat hair is most common in long-haired cat breeds, but it can also happen in short-haired cats with dense coats.

So the best way to treat mats is by preventing them. But if you’ve slipped up and find yourself dealing with an already-matted cat, don’t stress — here’s what to do next.

How to get mats out of cat hair

“When a pet owner notices matting in the animal’s coat, they can try to gently tease the tangles out with their fingers or a good metal comb,” Conner said.

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Before starting, it might help to spray your cat’s coat with a detangling spray to help loosen up the mats.

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When brushing each mat out, work in small sections at a time. Pull the brush from the outer edges of the mat working inwards, slowly, gently and without force (basically like how you’d detangle a big knot in your own hair).

With some patience, “it may be possible to remove the tangle,” Conner said.

If you find you can’t get the mats out with a comb, don’t use scissors to try and cut the matting away. “Cat skin is easily cut by scissors,” Conner said.

If your cat has a lot of matting, or you find it too difficult to remove yourself, contact an expert. A professional groomer or veterinarian can help remove the mats from your cat’s fur safely and teach you how to keep them from forming in the future.

How to prevent matted cat hair

“Matting can be avoided by regular sessions with a comb,” Conner said.

Ideally, you should brush your cat’s fur daily, especially if she has longer hair. But “even a few moments once a week will keep most cats tangle-free for life.”

A slicker brush is a great tool to have for brushing both long- and short-haired cats regularly.

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When brushing your cat, use the comb in a “J” pattern, Conner recommended. You do this by reaching all the way down to the skin, lifting up and repeating.

Brushing your cat for a few minutes daily (or weekly) is all you need to keep your cat from getting painful mats on her fur — for good!

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