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Cats with Matted Hair
Mattie used to belong to Helen Taylor’s Southern California feral colony. “I had to make friends with her quickly,” Helen said. “Somewhere in her moggie-mixture, she must have Persian in her. Her long hair would mat every time I looked at her!” Mattie, a beautiful, grey and white long-haired cat is one of three socialized feral cats that Helen brought with her when she moved from California to Oregon.
Long-haired cats, especially those with the soft, fine, downy fur that Persians are known for need to be groomed daily. Although cats are excellent self-groomers, long-haired cats benefit from extra grooming care by their owners. If like Mattie, your cat has inherited the three types of hair commonly found on Persians; guard hair, awn, and down, without daily grooming, their hair will mat frequently.
Long-haired cats living indoors can shed all year round. During the main shedding season (springtime) when the weather turns warmer, the undercoat will loosen. The loose hairs if not removed by a rake or long-toothed comb will become entwined with the guard hairs. This process is the beginning of a mat. The mat then becomes a cat hair magnet, inviting other hair to join it. By the time all the invitations are issued, the mat can be quite large.
For stray or feral cats it’s common for these mats to accumulate under the tail and on the back legs. The reason is moisture (urine and feces) acting like glue, holding the hair together. Mattie’s rescue was critical because one of her mats effectively covered her rectum. She was unable to poop and pee until it was removed.
Put a pinch of cornstarch on the mat and gently work it down into the hairs with your fingers. Pull the mat upward, without pulling the skin and using either the comb or your fingers, grasp the base of the mat above the skin. Helen suggests if the mat is starting to get out of control, to not use scissors, but instead use the seam ripper. Work from side to side (not up and down) to avoid accidentally stabbing kitty and begin to work the hair loose. Once the hair is loosened, use the comb and gently comb the hairs apart. If the mat is stubborn, use the toenail clippers to cut the mat. For smaller mats use a flea comb or a baby comb. Leave your wire bristle brushes in the drawer for mat removal.
To keep kitty calm during this process, play classical music for her. Talk to her in a soothing voice, and work carefully. Remember, her skin is going to be tender underneath all that matted hair. If she wants to take off on you, let her go. She comes prepared for battle her claws and teeth are formidable weapons. Try again later when she is once again relaxed.
Helen offers a great suggestion: “I alternate between combing Mattie’s hair with a comb and brushing her with a Zoom Groom. Because the Zoom Groom also delivers a massage, she lays still longer when I use both these tools on her. If I have to use scissors, I spray the scissors first with Feliway Spray. This helps keep her calm.”
The Dangers of Mats
Helen, when she feeds her cats in the morning lays down a wide strip of Laxatone on a separate plate. Her cats eat it up without a problem. “I stumbled on this technique quite by accident,” she said. “If I put it on their paws and smear it in, they either don’t eat it, or shake it all over the house. But giving it to them like this, they love it and it moves hair through their system. They also don’t try to paint my walls with it either!”
Daily grooming is the key to stopping mats from taking hold in long-haired cats.Brushing the hair helps prevent hairballs from occurring in both long and short-haired cats. Regular grooming sessions will also allow you a unique opportunity to bond.