Some kitties can easily get mats in their hair. If your beloved feline is one of them, you may notice her hair becoming increasingly matted, developing unsightly hair clumps. This condition is painful, so gently comb or cut out hair mats before they become a health issue.
Cat breeds with long, thick hair or fur are more susceptible. Cats have three layers of hair. These include the undercoat or down hair, which is the coat of hair closest to the skin; the awn hairs, which are the middle coat; and the guard hairs, which are those most visible to you. Each type of hair has a specific purpose in protecting your little kitty. They help her stay warm though they are the softest and shortest hairs on her body -- think of a comforter made from goose feathers. These awn hairs are rough, with cracked cuticles. They help to provide insulation she needs as well as to protect the down hairs. Guard hair is the outermost layer of hair on your kitty’s body. These hairs are longer and thicker, and they taper toward the end. The layer of guard hair works to protect your kitty from outdoor elements such as wetness and cold.
How Hair Mats Develop
All three of these hairs interact with each other when mats form. In the spring, when your kitty is shedding her winter coat, she sheds her undercoat -- the down. If these hairs are not raked or combed out every day, they tangle with the guard hairs, becoming the beginning of a hair mat. Other hair your furry feline sheds is attracted to this mat, causing it to become even larger. These bothersome and painful mats can develop anywhere on your kitty’s body, but they are most likely to form on the sides of her body, on her underside and on her hindquarters. Because the hindquarters is susceptible to moisture from eliminating and sitting, she forms hair mats here.
Before You Begin Removing Hair Mats
Gently remove all hair mats. They can affect your cat's skin health. Prepare yourself mentally: This is likely to be a slow and careful removal process, sprinkled with cat treats and lots of patience. Your kitty has to be calm and relaxed when you start working to remove hair mats. Try catching her after you’ve exercised her or after she’s eaten a good, yummy meal.
Removing Your Kitty’s Hair Mats
Use your fingers to separate the mats one at a time. Hold your kitty gently and calm her, using a low and soothing voice. Once you’ve found and separated each pesky mat, you should be able to remove them by hand. If a mat won’t come out, don’t pull. You’re more likely to tear your precious cat’s skin instead. After you’ve managed to separate the mats, use a metal comb to work on each one. You should be able to bring small tufts up as you work with the comb. If you find a mat that refuses to separate, it’s better to cut it out than to risk injury to your kitty’s delicate skin. Using blunt-tip scissors or clippers, cut those stubborn mats out of her coat. Continue working on each mat with your fingers. After you have separated the hairs in each mat, comb your kitty’s hair smooth and shiny with a soft brush.
Your Helper in the Pantry
Cornstarch may help you loosen hair mats. Sprinkle a small amount on each mat and work it into the hairs with your fingers. Put the fingers of one hand in between your kitty’s skin and the mat, and gently grasp the bottom of the mat with your fingers or the metal comb and work it out. If your cat gets antsy and impatient, let her go. You can always return to working on the mats when she’s calmed down again.
Preventing Matted Hair
Once you have gotten rid of mats in your kitty’s hair, brush her every day. Using a fur rake, comb gently through all layers of her hair and remove loose hairs that have accumulated. There will be plenty.
Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.