How do I remove mats in my cat’s hair and why does this occur?

Original Question: My rescue cat baby has been getting what I think are large tangles in his hair coat. They seem to bother him and I can't brush them out. Is it possible that these are covering masses on his skin or is it just hair? How do I resolve this issue and why does he get these? Thanks for your time - Joan

How do I remove mats in my cat’s hair and why does this occur? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Joan,

It sounds like these tangles are mats in the hair.  A veterinarian should look at him and determine if this is not just hair and it’s an actual mass growing from the skin but it sounds like it’s just hair though.

You are correct, they won’t untangle and they do have to be cut or shaved off.  Long hair cats get this problem if they’re not grooming themselves.

There are a couple of reasons why this is occurring:

1. Weight. He may not be able to reach the area to groom if he is overweight. If this is the case, trying to get his weight down would help.

2. Illness. Sometimes they stop grooming because they don’t feel well and any number of health problems could be going on. If this is the case, the only option is to have him examined at by a vet.

3. Stress. Sometimes they stop grooming because they’re stressed out.  This could be because he hasn’t fully adapted to being an indoor cat or that they are fighting with the other cats.  In this case, you can de-stress him by using calming pheromone products in your house.  These are devices that you plug into an outlet and it heats up a cat hormone that has a strong calming effect on the cats in the household.  You can find it online or at a vet clinic.

4. Supplements. In other circumstances, using omega-3 fatty acids added to the diet could help coat quality and prevent mats.

5. Grooming. Regular brushing out of his coat will help prevent it as well.

It sounds like he’s adapting well to the house and that he’s probably not sick or stressed out, but since I haven’t seen him I have to include all the possibilities I can.  It’s probably that he’s a long hair cat and just gets matting.  If it were up to me I would cut them out.  Clippers are best to use but they have to be good clippers.  Maybe a groomer or clinic would let you borrow some, but maybe not since good ones are expensive.  You can use scissors, but please be careful not to cut the skin.  Elevate the mat well before cutting and make sure its during a time that he is cooperating and not fighting/moving around a lot.

Hope this helps.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

To view a summary of the causes of matted fur in cats, check out the video below:


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