A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

How to Get Rid of Matted Cat Hair: Causes and Solutions

By: Kelli Rascoe & Trupanion Staff

A long-haired cat with messy fur gazes upward.

Cats are famous self-groomers. In fact, most kitties can be spotted cleaning themselves multiple times a day and have the coat to show for it. So what’s the deal when your feline’s fur starts looking clumpy and thick? Matted cat hair is a problem for many pet parents—it’s tough to remove, and it’s not going to go away on its own.

Matted fur isn’t something you should ignore either, since maintaining your cat’s coat is essential for his overall wellness. In addition to matted fur making it more difficult for your cat to groom himself, it could also be a sign of some underlying health issues.

What is matted cat hair?

Simply put, matted fur is extremely tangled, knotted fur. It often appears thick and clump-like, and it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to comb through. Not sure if what you’re looking at is matted cat hair or just some simple tangles? Look for the following signs:

  • Hair no longer looks or feels soft
  • Fur sticks up in tufts
  • The clumped fur doesn’t go away after a day
  • Your cat expresses discomfort if you try to comb out the hair

According to Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold, hair mats in cat fur can occur all over the body or in isolated areas, like the stomach or lower back. The matted fur may also be painful for your cat and can pull on the skin as she moves.

Matted cat fur causes

Close up of a black cat with signs of matted fur.

“Matted hair on your cat often indicates that they have stopped grooming or aren’t grooming as effectively as they used to,” Nold says. “There are many different causes for this, one of the more common being itchiness from skin issues such as allergies or external parasites.”

Nold also explains that matted fur can also occur in felines suffering from obesity. In addition to being at greater risk for feline diabetes, overweight cats may become so large that their mobility is limited. They may also no longer be able to reach certain parts of their body for grooming.

A number of other conditions may also contribute to matted cat fur:

  • Long or coarse hair (your cat’s fur type can make them more susceptible to matting)
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Dental issues
  • Arthritis
  • Old age / age-related illnesses

If you notice that your cat is no longer interested in self-grooming or is not grooming themselves effectively, contact your veterinarian.

When to seek veterinary attention

Cats are notoriously good at hiding pain and discomfort. So, it can be difficult to tell when the matted fur on your feline is due to an underlying illness or has progressed to the point where it’s causing other issues. Nold suggests practicing caution.

“If this is a new issue with your cat, they should be examined by your veterinarian to try to determine the underlying cause,” she says. “Depending on your cat’s temperament, and the size of the hair mat, your cat may have to be sedated by your veterinarian to have the hair mats removed.”

Still, even minor cases of fur matting need to be addressed. Not only will your cat likely not be able to groom it out herself, but attempts to do so can cause an excess of hair in her system and lead to hairballs.

“If the hair mat is large enough or left untreated long enough it can result in a secondary skin infection that will have to be treated,” Nold advises.

How to get rid of matted cat fur

In cases where the hair matting is minimal and not a new issue for your kitty (and underlying causes have previously been ruled out), you may be able to remove it yourself. Of course, removing matted fur in cats is not as simple as combing it out with your usual cat brush (and if it was, you wouldn’t be reading this).

“You may be able to slowly work at the mat with a flea comb or make an appointment with a professional cat groomer,” Nold says. “Don’t try to cut out the hair mat with scissors, as you can cause more harm than good if the cat moves and you cut the skin instead.”

Do not attempt to remove mats that are more severe or seem to be hurting your kitty. Instead, consult with your veterinarian before heading to a groomer.

Matted cat hair removal in 5 steps

  1. Start by gently pulling the matted hair apart with your fingers. Loosen it out into smaller strands.
  2. Use a flea comb to gently pick apart the tangled hair further. Use quick, short strokes and work from the ends to the base.
  3. Continue working with the flea comb, giving your kitty breaks as needed. Pay close attention for behavioral changes and signs of cat stress.
  4. Gently feel with your hands to see if there is further matting. If it feels clear, stroke through a couple times with your fingers.
  5. Brush your cat’s fur with her regular comb or brush. If you still notice signs of matting or it returns after removal, give your pet’s veterinarian a call.

Preventing hair matting in cats

Orange cat with matted fur on a table with pet groomer in background.

Matting in pets can often go undetected until it’s a serious mess. Follow these tips to prevent fur matting in cats:

  • Have your cat examined by a veterinarian at least annually to try to catch any underlying diseases early (enroll your kitty in pet insurance to help cover surprise costs).
  • Brush your cat regularly. Long-haired cats may need extra preventative grooming.
  • Keep your cat on monthly flea prevention—fleas can cause skin and coat issues, among other illnesses.

Have more questions about feline hair problems? Learn why your cat sheds so much.

A dog and cat snuggle

Sign up for our

PET NEWSLETTER

Content curated for you and your pet, straight to your inbox. Sign up to receive:

  • Hot tips on pet health
  • The latest pet trends
  • Chances to win big
  • And more!
Sign up now

Blue Facebook icon Blue instagram icon Blue Linkedin icon Blue Pinterest icon Blue Twitter icon Blue YouTube icon

WELCOME TO BARKS & MEWSINGS!

We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

Get a quote