Cat Matted Fur: Tips and Tricks to Remove Cat Mats

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Originally published April 21, 2016

Ragdoll Cat with Rakom Cat Grooming ToolCat 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.

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.

Here are a few tips and tricks to try:

Brushing Routines

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 harder 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 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.

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:

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)
  • electric mustache trimmer
  • seam ripper for sewing
  • 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

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.

Diet

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.

Grooming

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.

Rakom Cat Brush – Read our review or buy it here

JW Grip Soft Cat Brush – Read our review or buy it here

JW Pet Gift Soft Slicker Brush – Read our review or buy it here

Shedmonster – Read our review or buy it here

Shed Ninja 2-in-1 Pet Shedding Brush – Read our review or buy it here

JW Pet Cat Comb – Read our review or buy it here

JW Pet Gripsoft Rotating Comfort Cat Comb – Read our review or buy it here

JW Pet Shedding Blade for Cats – Read our review or buy it here

EZ-Groomer Cat Shedding Comb 7-Tooth – Read our review or buy it here

Safari Cat Comb Review – Read our review or buy it here

What is your favorite cat brush and why?  Please leave comments below and be sure to include:

  1. Brand of cat brush, i.e. JW Pet
  2. Model of cat brush, i.e. Slicker Brush
  3. Price you remember paying for it – or link to where one can find it online
  4. 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?
  5. Can’t decide on just one?  That’s fine – list as many as you’d like.

Comments (16)

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  1. Wow! Thanks so much for such a great, informative post, Jenny! We haven’t had many matting/tangling issues with Miss Pink Sugarbelle’s coat until the last few months. Her ruff is so fluffy that it gets a bit matted here and there. But I’m able to easily remove them with an old hair brush I had laying around (and she lurves it!). Once the few odd mattings are gone I continue to groom her with the shed monster we have. She tolerates that pretty well (anything for a cheatz!)… 🙂 <3

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

  2. Such a wide range of combs! WOW! Great job Jenny, Charlie and Chiggy! Thanks for the great info. So far, none of our 3 girls have any problems with mats and just brush them every day. Sometimes use the cat comb with the two rows to get out the fur when they are in shedding season and that works well so they don’t get hair balls. So funny about what you said about “recycling the fur for the birds” because I do the very same thing and once saw a little bird flying away with his prize! Mine love to smell their fur too and if I leave it even for a minute, they want to eat it too, especially Illaria who will take off with it and I have to chase her down to get it. So funny! Thanks for the great variety in your reviews. Seems like you covered something for everyone! ♥♥♥

    1. Thanks, Teresa – I am glad you haven’t had issues with mats. I found two mats under Charlie’s front legs last night – usually he never mats! Ugh. I cut them and then brushed them out – much to his dismay! And yes, when I brush the cats outside – the birds definitely benefit.

      1. Charlie has such a rich, dense, gorgeous coat can see how he could make a mat or two behind those cute little legs of his. Can just imagine how unhappy he was about that, but bet a couple cheetz made him forget all about that! Think Illaria has the potential to make some mats since she has that really cottony-puffy fur, but Gracie’s fur is totally different since she is a sepia and is straight and silky. Mari’s is pretty self-sufficient and she hates being brushed as much as Charlie and Chiggy do, so only her Dad can do that brushing!

  3. Thank you for that information. My Ragdolls Whitie and Khari had the lion cut last year but my new groomer does not recommend it. The cats looked weird but cute in an odd way. One cat received the cut from a different groomer; the cat (Whitie) did not appear to be comfortable when he first got home. I had the other cat done so that they could both look the same. Now both cats have long hair again — long (not medium long). The groomer says that sometimes the hair does not grow back fully after a lion cut. I will never allow my cats to get the lion cut again. I take them to a wonderful groomer about every two months, in the nice weather more frequently (Rachel Ann’s Country Clips in Pocono Summit, PA — http://www.countryclipspetgrooming.com). The cats sometimes get the micro bubble, a state-of-the-art bath (all natural-no soap or harsh chemicals, hypoallergenic, etc.); other times they get a regular shampoo. Since the cats have been going regularly, there is far less shedding (they are strictly indoor cats). The cats are pampered with an ultimate spa experience (I don’t go to the spa myself). They don’t perform so much on their way to the groomer in my little coupe as they did in the past. Both cats usually sleep on the way home as they are so relaxed after their sessions (it takes about an hour to get there each way and they are dropped off for about 4 hours). I had to postpone their appointments several times this winter due to the threat of snow but they both have appointments (Whitie, May 8th and Khari, May 22nd). Rachel Ann usually takes photos and videos and posts them to the website.

    I will certainly try the coconut oil because I have had to work out and also cut out a few mats from both cats recently; it has been awhile since they have been groomed. However I do use a brush (metal) nightly. I also have a nearly untouched jar of organic coconut oil in my bathroom (I tried it with food but do not like the taste). Both my cats enjoy getting their hair brushed. I wish I had more time to spend on this site and usually sleep or read while on the bus. I am getting ready to leave my office now for my 90 minute bus commute home.

    Thanks again for the tips.

  4. I have 1 ragdoll (thatI rescued) that had started getting matts. The trick I use to never cut her is I hold the fur (or Matt between my fingers so the my fingers are next to her skin, so I cut the Matt in the other side of my fingers. This gives 1/2″ of so protection next to her skin. This usually gets the most of the Matt out then it makes brushing thru what’s left easier. Sort of like when a hairdresser cuts your hair- she holds hair I between fingers them cuts the ends.

  5. i could look at Charlie’s face all day! he is sooo expressive, i always expect him to just start talking. god, i love that cat. i just ordered the 7 tooth ez groomer. i have 3 cats, 2 short hair and one long, bunny fur that does get matted. it used to really get matted then i changed his food and that ended. but he does still get matts but it’s not a lot and mostly on his chest area. his favorite brush is my hair brush! i have a lot of brushes that he hates. i have those pricky ones with lots of tines, i have combs, i have the furminator and i agree that it does take the shine and those guard hairs away and i don’t like that. and he hates that one with a passion. and if he doesn’t like a brush he will cry and scratch and bite me. and it’s not that i’m rough with him, i’m always gentle but he will really put on a big show like i’m killing him and then he will scratch and bite me. if he sees me with my hair brush which is one of those detangling ones, he will come running and sit there for 20 minutes while i brush him. it just doesn’t get enough hair out, especially in the summer when he sheds like crazy. i’m excited to try this. i think he might like it.. we’ll see.

    1. cool, please let me know how you like the ez-groomer. i have heard on short haired cats that it doesn’t work as well unless you run it counter the way their hair falls, which frankly would piss off charlie if i did that to him. but murphy and caymus would take grooming any way that they can get it. so please let me know how it works on the short hairs. rags LOVED my hair brush! i used it on him often. i am excited for you to try the ex-groomer too! i hope you like it – but remember that hair flies everywhere with it =). also, my dad feels about the same about charlie – the sooo expressive!

  6. With long haired dogs as well as a Ragdoll, I know mats.

    I find the mat, use scissors that have a slightly rounded pointy tip (I use those folding scissors), and start from the base of the mat, close to the skin, and cut in the direction of the growth of the fur , if it’s a big one, make several cuts. Then you can pull the mat away with your fingers or a wide toothed comb. This way does not hurt the animal or damage the coat. I had a dog whose hair matted just by looking at her, and I had to keep her coat on great shape because she was a show dog. Her brother, also a show dog, could walk through a field of burdocks and shake as he left and nothing was sticking to him.

  7. My Baby Mew loves to be brushed – she actually demands it! – but she’s the only long-haired cat I’ve ever had who felt this way. An old human hair brush is her favorite. She just tolerates other (more expensive) brushes. Top Performance mat breaker is good but requires careful handling to avoid hurting kitties. Top Performance brush with metal tines needs very gentle application. I like the Furminator, but my cats don’t. They all enjoy being petted with the Kitty Tongue Glove; it removes plenty of hair but doesn’t affect mats.

  8. Great re-post, Jenny! So many great reviews of grooming tools!!! 🙂 <3

    Our faves remain the EZ-Groomer and Shed Monster. I'm still waiting to try the new Equi-Groomer on Miss PSB (just waiting for the right opportunity) so I can give you my testimonial on that. 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

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