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Cat Mats - Part 1

Posted on March 11, 2015 at 6:15 PM

In general, cats have two different types of hair in addition to their whiskers – undercoat and guard coat. The guard coat is the outermost layer of hair, which is typically thicker and coarser than undercoat, since its main purpose is to guard the skin. The undercoat is the softer, finer hair that serves as insulation to help cats regulate their body temperatures.


A cat in the wild would shed a small amount year-round but would experience seasonal changes in its coat in the springtime and in the fall when it changes from its winter coat to its summer coat and vice versa, during which time, it would shed considerably more than usual. Housecats may follow similar shedding patterns or they may exhibit excess shedding all the time. Excessive year-round shedding is thought to occur as a result of selective breeding and/or as a result of living indoors. A cat that lives indoors is not exposed to the same seasonal changes in temperature or daylight that an outside cat is exposed to, and both of these factors can affect coat growth.


Why is excessively shedding undercoat important? Because it causes tangles in the coat. When that undercoat is released from the skin, it sometimes ends up all over your house or it is sometimes ingested and regurgitated as a hairball. Often times, it becomes tangled in the coat. Over time, more undercoat is released, and it becomes further tangled with the other undercoat. If left unchecked, these tangles lead to matting, which can lead to pelting. Pictured below are hard clumps of hair shaved from an older cat who had been unable to full extend his hind legs because his coat condition was allowed to worsen. 




Once the hair began to mat, fecal matter became entangled in the hair. Could you imagine having that occur each time you used the restroom?! 




Matting is bad, but pelting is worse. Pelting greatly restricts movement, pulls on the skin, hides wounds, irritates the skin, and generally makes cats feel miserable. Once matted or pelted, the coat is no longer able to serve its purpose. In fact, it does just the opposite. Instead of protecting the skin, it pulls it and can cause rashes and irritation. Instead of helping regulate body temperature, it increases the risk of both lowered body temperatures and overheating. The photo below is from my fellow CFMG, Gabi Tiefenbrunn of Gabi Kat Grooming in Tuscon, Arizona. It shows how encased this poor cat had become as her coat continued to pelt. 




What should you do if your cat is matted or pelted?


Step 1) Schedule an appointment with a professional feline groomer as soon as possible. We have the tools and experience to remove those mats and pelts with the least amount of discomfort to your cat.


Step 2) In the meantime, do NOT bathe the cat, no matter what. If the coat is matted or pelted, wetting it will cause the mats to tighten, making them even more uncomfortable for the cat. Not only that, but matted hair is almost impossible to dry completely, and leaving the coat wet risks dropping your cat’s body temperature too low.


Step 3) Do not let it happen again. Regular professional grooming, regardless of the type of groom, will keep that undercoat from building up, thereby preventing mats. Because there is a lot of misinformation about cat grooming and because there are so few cat groomers around, I am very forgiving the first time I groom a matted cat. Once an owner learns the cause of matting and how to prevent it, however, the costs for mat removal increase substantially. This is in part due to the fact that mat removal is painful, no matter how carefully it is done. The pain of mat removal teaches cats to resent the grooming experience, making it more stressful for them and for me.


Join us for next time for Part 2: What Owners Can Do – to learn more about preventing mats.

Categories: Cat Grooming

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