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Mat On The Cat

A couple of people have asked me if I know any tips for helping dogs and cats whose fur gets clumpy mats in it. Oh boy, do I ever.

When Andy first moved in, he used to get awful, tangled mats of fur. I’m sure they were painful because when petting him, if my hands got close to a mat, he’d snap at me. The first time he got a mat so big and painful that I took him to my vet. They took care of it, as would any groomer.

extreme case of matted fur

After that, I tried a bunch of things I read about online.

  • What has been most successful on Andy’s big mats – or mats in places where Andy won’t let me comb him – is olive oil. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this solution! It’s very easy, quick, and painless. I put some olive oil into a tablespoon, pour it on the mat, and then I walk away. Within a few hours, the mat just falls off. I mean, I just find them sitting on the floor or in a cat bed. Andy doesn’t seem to even notice the loss and I have never seen a bald spot on him. I don’t know exactly how this works, but I’ve read that the oil loosens hair follicles. No matter, I’m thrilled to have discovered a nontoxic, scissor-free solution. (Note: the oil will get on anything the cat lays on. So be careful if you have suede furniture or other fabrics that oil will ruin.)
  • Many people use baby oil in the same way that I use olive oil (above). But I wouldn’t recommend using it on cats because it includes mineral oils that can potentially block feline intestines if ingested. (You know, in the off-chance that your cat wants to actually groom himself.) Also, cats are very sensitive to the scents of mineral oils.
  • I took some really sharp scissors, and when Andy was sleeping I would begin to snip on one. It sometimes took several bouts of me slicing with scissors before I successfully shopped off a big mat.
  • There are cat-friendly detangling sprays on the market that you can buy at most pet stores. These usually require brushing or combing to work out the mat.
  • For small mats that you’re willing to put time into combing out, use corn starch or talcum powder. With one of those powders on your fingers, pinch the mat between your fingers & rub lightly. Then comb the mat, starting with the part that is farthest away from the skin. I hear that eventually the fur will untangle, but I never had any luck with it.

The best advice I can give people, though, is about how to prevent mats from building up. Brushing them regularly will help, especially if you use the brush that is designed to remove loose fur from the undercoat: the Furminator.

The Furminator is remarkable! Even using it on Andy once a week has put an end to his mats. For me, it’s been worth every cent I paid for it. (I’ve tried knock-offs and they don’t work quite as well. I know it’s expensive but it is SO worth the money if you have a cat who is matted at times.)

You can get the Furminator at most pet retail stores and at some vets. (I know that my vet, Hawks Prairie Veterinary Hospital, carries it.)

Mats are not just unsightly, they can be a breeding ground for fleas and other parasites because a cat can’t scratch or bite that area. They are also more likely to be associated with rashes and bacterial skin infections because mats prevent light and air from reaching the skin. Large, tight mats – like those Andy had at first – can also cause their skin to rip open.

If you have tried other tactics to remove mats on your dog or cat, please share them with me & my readers in the comments below.

If this article is helpful & you’re able, please consider sending a thank-you tip/donation. Even small donations will help me keep my business running during the travel industry slump that has brought pet sitting to a screeching halt. Thank you! (FYI, for a sliding scale fee starting at $30, I offer consultations to help people solve their specific cat-related issues. Let me know what I can help you with.)

4 comments to Mat On The Cat

  • Debbie

    Thank you for this tip – I’m going to give this a go. I have an old British Shorthair who runs a mile the mi ute she knows the brush is put. Don’t know why – she is very standoffish but is sweet in her own ways.
    I will let you k ow how it goes – hopefully she won’t rip my hands off!

  • Harley

    I have an outside long haired kitten who has horrible mats that I can’t get out with everything else I tried, is it okay to put olive oil on him if he’s going back outside?

  • Tad

    i have two cats and one of them gets the occasional mat in his fur. i have found that a simple men’s pocket comb does the trick in most cases. my cat absolutely loves being brushed with the comb and the mats tend to come out easily. i also have a furminator and i use that on mats that i can’t get at with the comb. the furminator does work well, but my cat doesn’t enjoy being brushed with it as much as he does the pocket comb so i tend to reserve furmination for shedding season.

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