If you’ve ever had a tangle in your hair, you’ll know how annoying it can be. Attacking it with a brush isn’t enough – you need to be careful if you want to avoid damaging the hair, and your scalp. The same applies to matted cat hair.
Our feline friends up end up with matted cat fur for a range of reasons. Usually, these matted cat hair knots are a lot harder to handle than the human alternatives, because cat fur has a different structure. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that pet parents resort to problematic methods to remove mats.
Well-meaning cat owners end up booking emergency vet visits for kitties with bald patches, scissor wounds, and more.
Today, I’m going to introduce you to some better methods for handling matted cat fur, so you can avoid the trauma (and the pain for your kitty).
So let’s talk about how to get mats out of cat fur!
What Causes Matted Cat Hair: The Basics
Ideally, the best thing any pet owner can do for matted cat fur, is to stop them from forming in the first place.
Regularly grooming your feline pal means that they’re less likely to end up with excessive knots. However, tangles can often form regardless over time.
Cats have around 130,000 hairs on every square inch of their body. That’s a lot of fluff. For the most part, your feline friend does an excellent job of grooming that fur on their own. Kitties have carefully designed tongues that allow them to brush and wash their fur at the same time. Unfortunately for cats with longer hair, there are times when matted cat hair tangles might happen.
The most common causes of matted cat fur include:
Most of the time, you can handle a good chunk of your mats with brushing. However, particularly tough matted cat hair chunks require extra work.
Why It’s Important to Deal with Matted Cat Fur
So, if handling matted cat fur is so tricky, why should you attempt it in the first place?
Initially, matted cat fur can seem like little more than a minor annoyance. Sure, it doesn’t look great, but it doesn’t seem to cause that much damage. However, the truth is that your feline friend’s fur needs to be healthy and tangle-free to allow for continuous airflow.
Matted cat hair damages tissue by stopping moisture and oxygen from reaching it properly. This leads to scaly, dry, and irritated skin. When a cat begins to notice this change, they groom more frequently. This sometimes leads to your kitty ingesting more hair and suffering from hairballs.
Another major issue that matted cat hair causes are a potential skin infection. Knots on the backs of your cat’s legs can trap feces and urine, which is terrible for your cat’s skin.
Dealing with Matted Cat Fur: Before You Begin
Okay, so we know that matted cat hair isn’t something you can simply ignore. However, removing matts is a tricky process – you need to approach it as carefully as possible.
Most cats groom on a regular basis, to ensure that their fur and skin stay as healthy as possible. This regular grooming cleans the fur and stops other problems from forming. However, if something gets stuck in the fur, mats end up forming. These clumps of fur are seriously problematic for your cat.
If your kitty stops grooming entirely, then stop worrying about the mats for now and take them straight to the vet. A lack of grooming often indicates that there’s an underlying health problem to address. Your kitty might have a poorly stomach, indigestion, or other issues that need treatment.
If there are just one or two mats that emerge over time, and you haven’t noticed any other changes in your cat’s behavior, then you should be able to handle things at home. Just remember that the process takes a steady hand and a lot of patience.
Start by making sure that your cat is relaxed and calm. You may need another person that the kitty is familiar with on hand to help you soothe your four-legged pal while you work.
It’s also a good idea to get the tools that you need ready, so you don’t have to search for them.
For instance, a spray bottle with some conditioner is a good option to have on-hand, along with a wide-toothed comb.
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How to Remove Mats From Cat Fur
If a knot in your cat’s fur isn’t too tight or large, then you might be able to work it apart carefully with your fingers as you pet your pal. You can apply an oil-based detangling spray, or some cat-friendly conditioner to loosen the matted cat hair. If your fingers aren’t enough to pull the mat away from the skin, you can use a metal detangling comb.
Remember, just brushing and tugging the knots out with as much strength as possible isn’t a good idea – it’s going to really hurt your cat. Instead, hold the cat’s fur underneath the mat, to prevent it from tugging the skin. Separate the matted cat hair into small pieces, and be as gentle as possible, applying fast and short strokes to protect the skin.
Even if a mat seems particularly tough to remove, avoid trying to cut it out with scissors. There’s no guarantee that your four-legged friend will stay still while you’re chopping, and it’s easy to accidentally cut them if they’re squirming. Additionally, if the matted cat hair is too close to the skin, there’s a risk that you’ll miscalculate and cut too deep.
Tips to Remember When Removing Mats in Fur
Aside from avoiding scissors, there are a few other things that you can do to protect your cat and make removing mats as simple as possible. For instance, adding water to the fur is rarely a good idea. Water makes the knots set tighter.
You can use a detangling spray or anti-static spray to lubricate the mat in some cases. However, this won’t always be necessary. Any substances that you plan on using need to be as safe as possible for your cat. You may be able to sprinkle some cat-friendly talcum powder on the area if you’re having trouble or use a soothing spray.
If your kitty resists the matted cat hair detangling process (which is common), take a break. Pet the kitty to help it relax and speak in a soothing voice. You can always try removing the knot again as the cat begins to settle down.
Tools to Use for Matted Cat Hair Detangling
There are plenty of products out there that claim to help with matted cat hair removal. However, only a handful will deliver the right results. For instance, it’s always a good idea to have a wide-toothed comb on hand. You can use this to regularly brush and groom your cat, to help prevent mats.
Wide toothed combs help to ease out matted cat hair knots by separating the hair, rather than just tugging. Remember to hold the fur close to the skin when you’re brushing and removing mats. Start at the very end of the tangle and work your way up gradually. This will avoid some of the pain of the brush getting stuck.
If your cat has a thick undercoat, like a Maine coon, consider a comb specifically made to suit this kind of fur. For instance, a mat comb comes with little hooks on the bottom of each blade to carefully separate the fur as you brush. It helps with getting under the mat too.
If for any reason, you can’t remove the matted cat hair knot, then the better option to scissors is usually electric clippers. However, you must avoid using these clippers yourself. Your cat’s skin is sensitive, and clippers can generate a lot of heat. Additionally, there’s still a risk that you can scrape and injure your cat’s skin if you’re not careful.
Here are some handy tools to try for matted cat hair removal.
1. Hertzko Grooming Comb - Best Overall Matted Cat Hair Tool Pick
Here’s one of the top tools on the market for removing matted cat hair knots and tangles. The hooked blades on the comb help to get underneath the mat and get rid of any trapped hair and dirt. The teeth aren’t sharp, so they won’t scrape on your kitty’s skin, and the curved edge avoids any unnecessary discomfort.
Designed to be comfortable, reliable, and durable, the anti-mat comb tackles small patches of matted cat fur at a time. This ensures that you’re less likely to pull on large knots too quickly, frightening and hurting your cat. The comb also comes with an anti-slip comfort-grip handle, so you don’t have to worry about wrist strain.
If you’re looking for a matted cat hair comb that grooms and massages your cat’s skin and coat, this is the option for you. Just note that it does take quite a while to finish grooming a large kitty.
2. Detangling Pet Comb - Best Two-in-One Combo Pick
As we mentioned above, you’re going to need at least one wide-toothed comb to handle matted cat fur. Fortunately, this two-in-one option comes with separated teeth and shorter teeth to support all kinds of brushing. The longer metal teeth are great for handling matted cat hair knots, while the shorter ones are good for regular grooming.
Like most of the top-performing combs and brushes on the market, this option comes with an anti-slip grip that’s ideal for comfortable brushing over long periods. This comb is particularly good because it can get down into the fluffier layers of your cat’s fur and reduce the risk of mats forming by getting rid of dust and dirt.
3. Pat Your Pet Deshedding Brush, 2 Sided Undercoat Rake - Best Veterinary Approved Pick
This all-in-one matted cat hairbrush is perfect for both dogs and cats. It helps with removing unwanted hair when your kitty is shedding, plus, it’s fantastic for handling matted cat fir knots too. The curved teeth won’t cut or scrape against your cat’s skin while you’re brushing. At the same time, the hooks are perfect for gradually pulling apart knots, one bit a time.
The precision-engineered steel blades on the head are fantastic for painless detangling. Plus, you get wider teeth, so you don’t have to worry about hurting your kitty if you encounter some particularly stubborn mats. Grooming with this brush for just five minutes a day will remove loose undercoat fur and put a stop to pesky knots.
This matted cat hairbrush is veterinary approved, and something that I regularly use to help out with my Maine Coon’s tangles. The anti-slip rubber handle comes in handy too.
4. ENJOY Pet Clippers - Best Clippers Pick
Again, I wouldn’t recommend trying to shave any knots out of your kitty if you can avoid it. Ultimately, unless you’re a grooming professional, it’s going to be challenging to make sure that you do a good job. However, if you do have to remove a matted cat hair knot and don’t have another option, these clippers could be a good choice.
The ENJOY pet clippers are small enough that they won’t remove too much fur at once, so you get more control. The razor is quiet, so it’s less likely to frighten your cat, and there is a range of heads available for it, so you can avoid getting too close to your kitty’s skin.
The rechargeable battery lasts for up to seven hours on a full charge – but you definitely shouldn’t need that much time. Additionally, you get a wide-toothed metal comb included with the purchase, so you can attempt to detangle before you cut.
5. PetO’Cera Hypoallergenic detangling spray - Best Sensitive Spray Pick
As I mentioned above, it’s best to stay away from any moisture or detangling products if you don’t know how to use them safely. Don’t just spray water onto a cat’s fur, as this often makes matted cat fur knots and tangles much worse. The PetO’Cera mist, on the other hand, could be a good option.
This fragrance-free and hypoallergenic product comes with ingredients designed for more sensitive cats. There are 8 botanicals included to support your kitty, and the spray also helps to soothe your cat’s skin – which is great if they’re struggling with irritation after the mat.
One of the things I like most about this detangling spray is that none of the ingredients are hidden – you get to see the full list on the product, so there’s no stress that you’re using dangerous chemicals on your feline friend. All the ingredients are very safe to use, with no harmful or toxic products.
6. John Paul Pet Lavender Mint Spray
Another option if you’re struggling with taming dry, unruly, or knotted hair, is the John Paul lavender spray. This is quite a heavily fragranced product – so you might want to avoid it if your kitty has a sensitive nose. However, the unique botanical formula is quite good at softening matted cat hair tangles.
By moisturizing and replenishing hair, this spray makes it easier to get rid of knots in a hurry, without tugging or pulling. The Panthenol coats and separates strands to eliminate tangles. Plus, there are various conditioning, and soothing agents included, such as oatmeal and sweet almond oil.
One thing I particularly like about this spray is that it’s tested on humans first – so you know you’re getting something that’s ultra-safe.
Preventing Issues with Cat Fur De-Matting
Ultimately, removing matted cat hair from your cat’s fur is never going to be a simple process. Your feline friend isn’t going to like you tugging at knots in their fur – no matter how gentle you’re being. That means that there are going to be times when you need to stop brushing and let your cat calm down.
If there are multiple matted cat hair knots in your kitty’s fur, don’t try to tackle them all on the same day. Handle the problem one day at a time and give your cat plenty of treats to help soothe them. If there’s a lot of seriously matted cat hair that you need to address, then the best thing you can do is contact a certified groomer or a vet.
Not all matted cat fur is easy enough to remove on your own. Just as you would need a hairdresser if you were struggling with a hair disaster – your cat sometimes needs professional help too. There are some cats – such as long-haired strays that need their entire coat shaving so that their fur can grow back in a better condition.
However, even if you have a pair of clippers, it’s best to avoid doing this yourself. You probably don’t have a lot of experience dealing with cats, and it’s vital that you see a professional veterinarian or stylist if you can instead. These people will have the knowledge and tools required to get rid of mats without causing injury or stress.
If you do decide to take your cat to the vet or a groomer to deal with the problem, don’t be afraid to ask for some advice. These experts can often give you tips on the right brushes, shampoos, and detangling sprays to use to prevent further problems in the future.
Preventing Matted Cat Hair
Prevention of matted cat hair is the best cure for any matted fur problem. This means that if you have a long-haired kitty, you need to be committed to regularly grooming him or her so that you can avoid further issues as much as possible. At regular vet visits, speak to your vet tech and ask them to do preventative clipping when mats start to form.
If you have a long-haired feline friend, then ensure that you set aside some time every week to brush through their fur using a metal comb and brush. This will remove any excess hair in the undercoat for your kitty, which makes matting less likely.
If you’re diligent about grooming your pet and you’re still finding tangles, then you might not consider switching to a different brush or grooming style. Some combs don’t get into the undercoat, which means that they won’t eliminate common matting problems.
You might need to think about de-matting sprays and conditioners too. It’s better to use a formula specifically designed for cat safety than to use a conditioner that you have lying around the house. You can’t be sure that all of the ingredients in your products are safe for your cat.
Detangling sprays usually feature natural products, so you don’t have to worry as much if your cat is licking their fur and get a dose of the conditioner in the process.
If you are thinking that bathing your cat is unavoidable please follow the information in our how to bathe your cat properly guide, and also make sure that you use a cat shampoo. These are formulated for cats and won't cause any skin issues. Do not use a human shampoo!
Remember to read the instructions on the spray before you get started and avoid using them for bigger matted cat hair knots. These sprays are generally the most effective on smaller tangles.
When all else fails, and you have a matted cat fur knot that you want to chop out with a pair of scissors – stop and think. Avoid the scissors and contact your vet or a local groomer. It might cost you more initially, but you’ll avoid the emotional and financial costs of accidentally hurting your cat.
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