Most cat parents know that at least some brushing is good for their cats. Many, however, may not get around to it nearly as much as they should. Long haired cats especially need frequent brushing, because they’re prone to matting and pelting. What’s matted fur like for a cat? It’s not pleasant, and if it gets out of control, can actually become a health problem.
My own odyssey with matted fur on my cats
We have three longhaired cats in our house. Aria somehow manages to never, ever, ever have any mats at all. Chase gets the occasional mat, and Kali seems to always have mats somewhere. The most common places for Chase and Kali to get matted fur is between their front paws, in their armpits, and between their back legs. Kali also sometimes gets mats in her ruff and on her haunches.
Once, I noticed Kali was walking a little funny, like her shoulders or her front paws were bothering her. I picked her up and felt a huge mat on her chest, between her paws. She wasn’t happy with me fiddling with it, but I had to find out how bad it was. It turned out that it was so tight, it was pulling at the skin on her chest. Moving made that worse. No wonder she was walking funny, poor girl – the matted fur might even have hurt her a little.
With the help of my husband (because the mat was so uncomfortable for her that she was resisting me), I worked a pair of ball-tipped scissors into the mat, with the blades perpendicular to her skin so as to avoid cutting her, and broke it up. Then I worked a flea comb into the base of each smaller mat, to protect her skin from the scissors, and cut the mats out. Then I brushed her chest as gently as possible, until I was sure any remaining matted fur was combed out.
Surprise! With her fur freed up, she could walk just fine again. She is a perfect example of how matted fur can be uncomfortable for a cat. However, compared to some kinds of matting, Kali’s example is actually a mild one.
Thorough brushing helps prevent seriously matted fur
Many cat parents only concentrate on their cats’ overcoats. Unfortunately, matted fur occurs in the undercoat first. This is where it’s easiest to catch it, because it’s still just a small knot that you might be able to gently clear with a comb, or even your fingers, before it gets to the point where you need to cut it out.
Matted fur, left unchecked, gets hot, itchy, tight, dirty and uncomfortable. Imagine your hair getting more and more tangled, and those tangles getting closer and closer to your scalp. Eventually, your hair is tangled so tightly that it’s pulling at your scalp all the time, no matter what you do. You can’t wash it thoroughly, and you can’t tease the tangles out and relieve the pulling on your scalp. All you can do is cut it all off for relief.
If you continue to neglect your hair after it starts growing back, the same thing will happen. This is what happens when you neglect your cat’s coat. Her matted fur gets so bad it becomes pelted, which carries all sorts of health implications for her. At that point, the only way to help her is to cut all her fur off. This has to be done at a vet’s office, or at a groomer – you should not do it yourself.
In addition to gentle, daily combings, your cat needs thorough brushing regularly, even if she doesn’t like it
Because of this, you should definitely comb your kitty every day as gently as possible, but once or twice a week, she needs a thorough brushing, even if she doesn’t like it. That’s probably what’s hardest for me. Chase, Kali and Aria like gentle combing, but not thorough brushing. It’s hard for me to do something they don’t like because I can’t explain to them that it’s for their own good. They don’t like it and that is that.
Gizmo just flat doesn’t like to be combed at all for some reason, making it even harder for me to groom her. She’s a short hair, so it’s not as hard to make sure her fur stays smooth and knot-free, but she still needs brushing to help remove dead fur and dirt.
For this reason, I like to have treats available for all of my cats when I give them thorough brushings. It goes more smoothly when they know there’s a reward for it. If this is too much for you, you should take your cat to a groomer for the brushing she needs. I find it’s easier and cheaper to do it myself.
As I write this, Chase is curled up a few feet away, looking at me through the fur on his long, fluffy tail. He doesn’t understand what I’m doing when I brush him, including that gorgeous tail of his, but I know he’s a happier and healthier cat because of it.