Yes, your cats need grooming — or else.
Matting is when the fur becomes knotted and entwined and can occur when the undercoat sheds (moults) and gets trapped under the top layer of fur. A build up of dirty fur or oily skin, affecting the condition of the fur, can also result in matting.
Most cat owners concentrate on the top layer of fur when brushing, leaving the undercoat without attention, which can lead to matting. A matt or knot can sometimes be teased out with the fingers or gently combed out if held at the root, and if a comb can be slid between the matt and skin, it’s safe to carefully cut the matt out using the comb’s teeth as a protective skin barrier.
When fur bunches together and is left uncombed, such matted fur can become a pelted coat. A pelt is a hardened matting or knotting that is tight against the skin. Pelts form when matting joins together over a long time over various parts of the animal’s body. More loose fur, dirt, debris and even feces get stuck in the already-formed pelts making them larger. This tightens against the skin nd eventually itches and irritates the cat as sores gather under the matted and pelted fur. The pelting, which cannot be combed out and must be shaved, can occur on the armpits, chest, tummy, under the chin, and the nether regions even when the top coat appears fine.
Some cats do try to rip the hair off of their bodies in desperation. Others put up with a lot, suffering in silence. Cats, after all, are good at hiding and showing little reaction to discomfort, illness, or pain and often don’t show pain at all. Pain tolerance varies, but most have developed a high tolerance out of evolutionary necessity. The best way to recognize pain in your cat is to know your cat’s routines, behavior, and personality, because changes in any or all may indicate pain.
Cat groomers get upset when they see a pelted pet cat. They know how uncomfortable the cat must have been for a considerable time without the cat’s owner(s) thinking much of it, or doing anything about it, until the owner asks the groomer to shave the cat. All is then good again — until the next time matting or pelting occurs.
The best solution for pelted cats is a lion cut, which removes most of the hair from the head, mane, arms, and legs. In the worst cases, even the cheeks, arms and legs may need shaving. Hair on a long-haired cat, after a lion cut, takes between four to six months to grow back to its natural length, but don’t wait too long before contacting the groomer again.
Shaving is the only humane option when a cat is pelted or badly matted, but it should not be considere a quick fix. It takes time, concentration, and skill to shave a cat, and if the cat is aggressive, frightened, or elderly, shaving can be a dangerous and stressful process.
Owners should be combing their cats every day and checking the areas that matt easily, such as the armpits, under the chin, and around the bum area. Small amounts of combing every day can make a big difference. Use a professional groomer every six to eight weeks to keep a cat’s coat in good condition.
A cat with a lion cut needs its cut fur maintained once it has grown to a length that can be combed, and its remaining fur still needs attention.
If you own a cat with high-maintenance fur, ask your groomer for a lesson in how to comb your cat in between regular visits or to check your grooming tools. A joint effort between cat owner and professional groomer ensures matting and pelts are a thing of the past.
We all want happy cats. Pelting and matting make very, very unhappy cats, while regular grooming creates happy cats. Keep your cat happy.
Anita Kelsey is a feline behaviorist, author, and mobile cat groomer who lives in the United Kingdom and has a knack for working with and helping troubled cats. Awarded the Anita the Gerry Fowler Prize from Middlesex University for achievement in recognition of her work and results, she writes for Your Cat magazine and serves on its expert’s panel for cat grooming. She also has a new book out, Claws: Confessions of a Cat Groomer. Learn more at CatBehaviourist.com.
Are you a San Francisco Bay area cat behaviorist, cat consultant, or cat expert who would like to contribute to this column, Kitty Corner? Send email to Editor@BayWoof.com.
Main article photo by: Photo by VAlekseeva-istock