Cat matted fur can be a real problem for cat owners and it can be difficult to keep mats at bay or get rid of them, especially if your cat is particularly sensitive to brushing or clipping.
But there are plenty of solutions for cat mats, it’s just a matter of experimenting with different courses and seeing what works for your kitty.
All products featured on the site are carefully selected by the editor of Floppycats, Jenny Dean. In addition, we may earn a small commission when you purchase something through our affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
- What Are Cat Hair Mats?
- What Causes Matted Hair in Cats?
- Why Is Matted Hair Bad for Cats?
- Removing the Mats
- Brushing Routines
- Home Grooming Tools
- Natural Mat Loosening Treatments
- Equigroomer Cat Brush
- JW Grip Soft Cat Brush
- JW Pet Gift Soft Slicker Brush
- JW Pet Cat Comb
- JW Pet Gripsoft Rotating Comfort Cat Comb
- JW Pet Shedding Blade for Cats
- Safari Cat Comb Review
We have received a lot of inquiries about mats over the last few months, so I have linked to the posts on our social media channels about them and included more of the general tips that have come about herein.
But first, let's dive into what hair mats are, how they come up, and why de-matting should be a priority for any cat-owner.
What Are Cat Hair Mats?
Fur mats are portions of a cat's fur that have knotted and tangled to such an extent that the cat can't detangle it on its own. Mats are small at first, but they get larger in size if they are not dealt with. They can get from the size of a fingernail to the size of a thumb in just a few days. As they get bigger, mats also accumulate dust, dander, and dead fur, which gives them a solid consistency.
Mats usually appear in the areas of the body where there is a lot of friction and movement. Typical spots are under the cat's chest, between its legs, under its armpits, under its tail, and around its collar, if it wears one.
Matted fur is specific to long-haired cats, especially those with fur that tangles easily. If they are not brushed, tangles turn into clumps, and clumps turn into mats. Regular brushing is necessary for all cats, but it is mandatory for long-haired cats like Ragdolls, Maine Coons, and Persians because dealing with mats is unpleasant for both the cat and the owner.
What Causes Matted Hair in Cats?
There are a few common causes for matted hair forming in cats:
Some cats have fine fur, which tangles very easily. This may be specific to the individual, more so than the breed. If this is the case, then a strict grooming schedule will keep the mats at bay.
When cats shed, the loose hairs that fall get tangled in their coats, especially for long-haired cats. These lead to knots and, before you know it, to mats. While seasonal shedding is normal (before winter and mid-spring), if your cat is losing a lot of hair during the non-shedding parts of the year, then she might have a dermatological problem, which is certainly worth looking into.
Cats normally spend a lot of time self-grooming, which keeps their fur clean, but also partially "brushed". When cats spend less time doing this, the difference is noticeable and mats are very likely to form. Moreover, when a cat does not do any self-grooming, this is a sign that something is wrong. It might be in pain or they might be sick. This is usually correlated with other symptoms as well, such as apathy and loss of appetite. If you notice this, then you should take your cat to the vet.
Why Is Matted Hair Bad for Cats?
Matted fur is certainly not pleasant to look at, but it is also uncomfortable for cats. Initially, they don't cause much discomfort, but if they are not removed, they will continue to grow by entangling more of the surrounding fur. This can become uncomfortable for the cat because it might limit their movement, especially when mats form between their legs or under their chests.
Mats are also damaging for a cat's skin because the mat prevents the skin from breathing properly. With little ventilation to the area under the mat, local inflammation occurs. Then, dander builds up under the mat, making it even more difficult to remove.
Unfortunately, mats continue to get bigger if they are not removed, and in extreme cases (not likely to happen to house cats that have caring owners), they can cover entire areas of the cat's body, like their backs or their chests. You need a professional groomer to remove these large mats because they get very close to the skin. When they are finally removed, the irritated skin under the mat is red and inflamed, but with proper care, the cats recover.
Removing the Mats
Building a solid grooming routine is very important for long-haired cats and removing mats is a big part of that. The tools you use make a lot of difference in the process, so we're here to tell you about the most useful de-matting tools you can find out there, as well as a few tips and tricks to try. Find out all about the best brushes and combs to use (metal comb, mat comb, razor comb, we've tried them all), as well as the best lubricants to use to loosen the mats (such as olive oil, coconut oil, or baby oil)!
And don't forget the reward! Keep some cat treats close by, you might need them to get in your cat's good graces after de-matting.
Sometimes brushing a cat regularly is enough to prevent cat mats from forming and comb out any mild ones. It’s good to establish brushing habits as early as possible in a kitty’s life before it gets harer for them to become accustomed to it.
Many owners recommend using a reward system to slowly acclimate a cat to brushing. Start by simply showing the cat the brush, letting him or her nuzzle it, and then rubbing the brush near the scent glands on the cheeks – giving treats for accepting movements from the cat.
Then progress to alternating between a few brush strokes and a treat during brushing sessions until your kitty becomes more comfortable.
Some severely matted cats are particularly opposed to grooming under the legs, but there are some tricks and strategies that might allow you to reach the knots in that area. Try a change in position – for example, having the cat sit or stand on your legs while you carefully try to reach these areas, paying attention to their reactions and respecting when they want to stop.
Some owners also recommend finding a “sweet spot,” perhaps on the cat’s chest between their front legs and starting with pleasant brushing there before moving slowly to more problematic areas.
Looking for the best cat grooming brushes and products to deal with matted fur on your Ragdoll cat? You can find videos and more info on our favorites further down in the post, but here are a few of our favorites to check out:
Home Grooming Tools
Having the right tools can make all the difference in dealing with matted cat hair and keeping your kitty calm, one of the most important tools being the type of brush.
Here are a few different options for brushes that Ragdoll cat owners have recommended:
- rotating tooth comb
- moulting comb (with long and short teeth)
- flea comb
- dog brush
- silicone oven glove (unusual, but it pulls out loose hair easier than combing)
When brushing is not enough, sometimes cutting the mats out is the next step, but this can be difficult to do without damaging the cat’s skin. Here are a few different tools to try for this job:
- nail clippers (to avoid cutting the skin with nail scissors, but you can still clip their skin)
- Professional Salon Cutting Comb Carbon Fiber Hairdressing Hair Brush Sharp Tails
- Victoria wrote in, "Hi, just wanted to share this with you and any struggling Ragdoll owners. I've found the best tool for getting matted lumps out of Ragdoll's fur. I use a Toni and Guy Tail comb. It's not great for an all over brush but it's really good for dematting. I find if I hold her fur with my fingers near the root then comb the matted fur gently mine Ragdolls fine with it. If the mats bigger the tail of the comb poked into it can help tease it apart."
- electric mustache trimmer
- seam ripper for sewing
- Here's a photo of Charlie after me using a seam ripper to remove some of his mats. WARNING - you can cut their skin with a seam ripper, as you can with scissors, so BE CAREFUL not to cut their skin.
- FURminator – some owners recommend this, others warn that this can remove the delicate hairs instead of the top coat and possibly nick the cat’s skin. I (Jenny Dean, operator of this site) do not care for the Furminator.
Research and test out different types of tools to see which one you think your cat might go for and would work for you.
I do use scissors on my cats' mats - I ALWAYS make sure I know exactly where their skin is and then I cut through the mat and brush the rest out.
But you have to be ridiculously careful. My vet has told me about how many cats they see from owners using scissors to cut through mats.
Natural Mat Loosening Treatments
Sometimes brushing or cutting mats out doesn’t do the job, either because the mats are too dense or because your kitty simply won’t tolerate it. If you’re at this point, you can use things like coconut oil, baby powder, or a few other substances to loosen up mats before getting out the brush:
- Coconut oil – ruffle the cat’s coat with a little extra virgin coconut oil on your hands, and then let it soak in for about an hour or so. This will make it easier to loosen mats, and the oil is perfectly safe for both cats and humans to ingest – your cat might even like the taste and the healthy fats it contains!
- Baby powder – sprinkle some baby powder onto the really tricky mats and gently work it in with your hands. Do it just a little at a time until the mats start to loosen.
- Humidifier – this might help loosen up staticky fur during the winter.
- Good pet shampoo/conditioner – sometimes a good shampoo and conditioning once a month with a quality product designed for detangling can help keep the mats away, for instance Tropiclean, a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, or just a detangling spray like FURminator Hairball Prevention Waterless Spray.
These treatments might not prevent mats entirely, but they might help make the brushing process a little less painful.
Your cat’s diet might also be affecting the condition of their fur. Dry food has been linked to matted fur problems, and some owners have reported a positive change in fur health after switching away from a dry food diet.
You might also start adding more oils into your cat’s diet – for example, fish oil capsules – if they prefer this to coconut oil treatment.
Professional grooming might be a good option if you are unable to do anything else at home, but be sure to ask about your groomer’s methods.
Some use sedatives while grooming, which a lot of pet owners don’t want for their cats. If you do find a good groomer, a sanitary clip once a year to get rid of the really stubborn cat mats can save you a lot of trouble.
Another easy fix for summertime is to get your Ragdoll a lion cut so the short hair won’t mat. You can also consult your vet and a groomer about other professional and at home treatments for mat removal.
Cat mats can be a real problem for cats and their owners, and dealing with them by brushing alone can be a painful experience for both parties, so try out a few different tricks with your kitty to see if you can find a grooming solution that works.
How do you deal with matted cat fur? What kind of brushes or home treatments have you had luck with? What kind of treatments does your groomer use? Share your stories! Below I have listed brushes and combs we have reviewed with the videos to go with them, in case it helps you find a good one.
I was introduced to the EquiGroomer when the inventor reached out to me via email, introducing her product. I definitely recommend using the EquiGroomer outside – as fur can fly everywhere. I was probably most impressed by its ability to not piss off Charlie and Trigg – a hard task for any cat grooming tool.
We have had the JW Pet GripSoft Cat Brush for a very long time. I have used it on Charlie and Trigg and I have also used it on Caymus and Murphy. I cannot say anything bad about it. I like it just fine and it does the job it was made to do! This cat grooming brush is for daily brushing.
JW Pet Gift Soft Slicker Brush
Trigg and Charlie hate being brushed. Let’s just get that out of the way first. It doesn’t matter what the brush is, they just don’t like it. With that said, I like the JW Pet GripSoft Soft Slicker Brush very much and think it is a great brush for many reasons – it had a rubber sheathed handle so that it doesn’t slip in your hands. It also has finger fitting contours. It also comes with a 3-year guarantee that it will be replaced if it fails to perform as advertised.
When we were contacted by ShedMonster to do a product review for them, I was interested because I know people are always looking for a cat shedding solution. This cat de-shedding tool is of high quality. In fact, Caymus was my product tester on the ShedMonster and my dad was really impressed with the quality of the tool.
JW Pet Cat Comb
The JW Grip Soft Cat Comb For Combing. Cat combs help to prevent matting and hairball formulation. Great for removing dingleberries from the behind area! Much like a comb vs. a brush for human hair – just gives the hair a different look. I also love the fact that I can stick this sucker into the dishwasher – so it’s easy to sanitize – if I use it on Charlie and Trigg and then on Caymus and Murphy (this was especially true this summer because I was worried that if Charlie and Trigg had flea eggs on them, that I would then transfer them to the other cats).
JW Pet Gripsoft Rotating Comfort Cat Comb
I did not know these two combs existed until a reader alerted me to the fact that rotating teeth might help my cats (who hate to be brushed and combed) tolerate brushing/combing. And after using this comb for a number of weeks, the rotating teeth absolutely do help – but my cats still hate being brushed and combed. I will definitely be keeping the medium JW Pet Company Rotating Comfort Comb – I like to keep it in my drawer in the kitchen and quickly grab it when I see the cats’ manes are a mess.
The JW Pet Grip Soft Shedding Blade. The GripSoft rubber-sheathed handle makes it easy to hold in your hand and the little teeth along the shedding blade aren’t too sharp that you fear you will be cut. The only warning I have is that I suggest you remove the hair outside or in your garage because it tends to get everywhere as you are removing it – especially if your cats’ hair is as plush as Charlie’s.
The Safari Cat Comb is the first thing I grab to comb Charlie and Trigg’s manes. It’s also great for pesky knots and mats. As with any cat comb or brush, I used it to brush my hair to see how much it hurt or not. It has smooth, rounded teeth, so it didn’t hurt, other than when it pulled my hair! It would be a great comb for scratching an itch – think back scratcher!
What is your favorite cat brush and why? Please leave comments below and be sure to include:
- Brand of cat brush, i.e. JW Pet
- Model of cat brush, i.e. Slicker Brush
- The price you remember paying for it - or link to where one can find it online
- Why you like it for your Ragdoll cat or if you don't have a Ragdoll - what is their coat like and why do you like it?
- Can't decide on just one? That's fine - list as many as you'd like.