Almost every day I see cats come in to our practice that have matted coats. Sometimes there may just be a few mats, usually in the armpit areas or the rear end. Often there are large mats covering much of the cat’s rump, belly, or chest. Usually we find one of several things occurring, sometimes together. The most common cause is the cat being unable to groom itself properly due to pain or debilitation. We see this frequently in cats with significant arthritis that are too stiff and painful to reach their backs or belly when grooming. We also see matting with cats that have serious dental disease since that makes licking and grooming painful. Debilitated older cats with kidney disease, diabetes or hyperthyroidism oftentimes just do not have the energy to take care of their coat and may have mouth pain from oral ulcers. Finally, even healthy long haired cats such as Persians and Himalayans often have such heavy coats that they cannot self groom adequately and get matted if they are not combed daily.
How can we help these cats? First, don’t try to cut the mat out unless you can get your fingers between the mat and the cat’s skin. We frequently have to suture triangular cuts from scissor wounds made accidentally by well meaning cat owners. Second, bring your cat to your veterinarian to determine what is causing the matting. Treating underlying arthritis, dental disease, and issues such as kidney disease will help your cat groom itself better but more importantly feel better and live longer. Having your cat groomed at your veterinary clinic or by a professional groomer may be needed especially if the matting is extensive. Your cat may need to be sedated for grooming, as these mats can be very painful. Some cats need to receive “lion cuts” where the coat is shaved like a lion if they have very heavy coats or are extensively matted. If your cat has a matted coat, please help them by scheduling a visit with your veterinarian.