“Great article, I will certainly be using some of the points in this in the future with clients”
Emma O’Connor, Veterinary Surgeon at Anton vets
What is matting?
Matting is when a cat’s fur becomes knotted and entwined. Matts can occur when the cat’s 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. The fur bunches together if left uncombed.
Without proper and regular grooming a cats matting can very quickly become pelted.
Most owners concentrate on the top layer of fur, when they brush their cat, leaving the undercoat without attention. This can be the start of matting. A matt or knot can sometimes be teased out with the fingers or gently combed out if held at the root. If a comb can be slid between the matt and skin then it is safe to carefully cut the matt out using the combs teeth as a barrier so as not to cut and hurt the cat. This should not be done on a cat that is moving around. Extreme caution and the cats wellbeing is the number one priority when removing a small knot with scissors or by teasing out with fingers.
What is a pelt?
A pelt is a hardened matt or knotting that is tight against the skin. Pelts are formed when matting starts to join together, over a long period of time over various parts of the body. More loose fur, dirt, debris and even faeces, gets stuck in the already formed pelts making them larger. Pelts cannot be combed out and always need to be shaved.
The above photo’s are extreme examples of cat pelts but pelting can be equally bad on the underside of the cat where they are hidden from view. Pelting can occur out of view on the arms pits, chest, tummy, under the chin and the nether regions even when the top coat appears fine.
What would a pelt feel like on a cat?
Imagine our hair without being brushed or washed for months. It would start to matt very quickly and, in time, would become a clump all over. This would tighten to our scalp and become very itchy and make us irritable and hot. Imagine this clump over our bodies connecting skin from different areas as the matts become more entwined. The matting from under our arm pits has joined matting on our chest drawing the two bits of skin closer together. It feels way too tight for comfort. We are hot, we itch and sores are gathering under the matting.
Without being able to communicate our frustration and misery would we then try to rip the hair off of our bodies in desperation? Some cats do just that!!!
Would you be comfortable or would you be suffering?
Cats put up with alot. They suffer in silence because:
A: They are very good at hiding and showing little reaction to discomfort, illness or pain. vetinfo.com confirm:
cats often don’t show their pain. Pain tolerance varies from one animal to the next; most cats have developed a high tolerance for pain out of evolutionary necessity. The best way to recognise feline pain is to know your cat’s routines, behaviour and personality. Often, cats show their pain through changes in behaviour, personality and routine
B: They cannot tell us what they are feeling.
Cat owners often ask me:
Well, how do cats maintain their coats in the wild?
The majority of wild cats do not have long fur. Also, wild cats have larger tongues with large barbs on them to get out unwanted bits and pieces caught in the fur. Lions groom one another. But, if you go and see a lion’s mane up close (NOT ADVISABLE ;-)) it will be matted in places!!
Cat groomers get upset when they see a pelted cat. They know how uncomfortable the cat must have been for a considerable time and yet some cat owners do not seem to think much of it. They ask the groomer to shave their cat and all is good again until the next time it occurs.
Why leave your cat to matt in such a way as to cause suffering? We all know how much people love their cats but common sense goes out of the window whenever it comes to grooming.
Pelted cats have to have a lion cut which is the removal of most of the hair apart from the head, mane, arms and legs. In the worst cases even the cheeks, arms and legs of a cat need to be shaved.
Hair on a long haired cat, after a lion cut, takes between 4-6 months to grow to its natural length. This does not mean that a year should go by before contacting a groomer again.
A quick fix?
Shaving is the only humane option when a cat is pelted or badly matted but it should not be seen as a quick fix until the cat’s fur ends up in the same condition. It takes time, concentration and skill to shave a cat and, if the cat is aggressive, frightened or elderly, it can be a dangerous * and stressful process.
* Cats, especially elderly ones, can die of stress instantly on a grooming table. A groomer knows this and has to weigh up what is best. Elderly cats cannot be sedated. However, they cannot be left pelted either. For the groomer, this situation is highly stressful.
Groomers do not want to see a cat matted again and again!!
Owners should be combing their cats everyday and checking areas that matt easily such as the armpits, under the chin and around the bum area. Small amounts of combing everyday can make a big difference. A professional groomer should be used every 6-8 weeks to keep your cat’s coat in good condition.
It is a cost to be factored in when getting a cat with a high maintenance coat. Think of this cost like we do when getting our hair tidied or cut every few months.
If a cat has had a lion cut the groomer can be called in to maintain the fur once it has grown to a length that can be combed. In the meantime the remaining fur still needs attention.
If you own a cat whose fur is high maintenance why not ask a 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 will ensure that matting and pelts are a thing of the past.
We all want happy cats.
Pelts and matting = very unhappy cats.
Regular grooming = happy cats
= happy groomers!!!!
I hope ‘seeing matting and pelts from a cat’s perspective’ has helped change yours.
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Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza.