Avoid the mat on the cat.
Spring means renewal. For your pets, it means lots of shedding. For cats, it means more loose hairs available for matting—not fun for the owner or the cat. First, know that tangling and matting are only distant cousins. Tangling is a stroll in the slightly overgrown grass while matting is a struggle through the jungle. The former occurs with everyday activities, especially in longhaired cats. Activities as simple as rolling around outside in the leaves and grass. Frequent combing or brushing—or the cat grooming itself—usually easily smooths tangles.
Matting is another story. This happens when the fur becomes a mass that a comb or brush can’t penetrate. Cats handle their own grooming and are very adept at cleaning and resolving tangles. As a cat owner, you’ve seen the contortionist-like moves. However, mats can still occur, especially in longhair cats. Unresolved tangles turn into mats. Moisture—think drinking water, rain, urine and similar—can cause matting in cat fur especially if already tangled. Foreign matter that entangles in the cat’s fur can be a culprit. Matting can affect the overall health of the cat, blocking air, sunshine, harboring parasites, etc.
To test for matting versus tangling, push a comb in between the cat’s hair and skin. Will the teeth of the comb even push in? Do you meet resistance when attempting to pull the comb or brush through? Does the action pull your cat’s skin? Answering yes to any of these means you have matting. Tangling is seldom so close to the skin or so dense. Once you encounter a mass, use your fingers and eyes to investigate the scope of the mat.
Delores Petty, founder and owner of Boutique Pet Shop (www.boutiquepetshop.com/grooming.html), Dallas area groomers since 1968, notes that matting seldom occurs in short hair cats unless the cat fails to groom, usually because of laziness, sickness or age (e.g. 10+ years). The short hairs have short, coarse, less voluminous coats. Longhair cats have an ample undercoat—the layer of hair underneath the top/visible layer—that make them more susceptible to matting. They, too, groom less if lazy, sick or elderly, which compounds the problem.
Keep in mind, also, that your cat’s coat becomes thicker and more susceptible to matting in winter. Then, in the spring shedding season, matting can happen if you don’t remove the loose hairs, The latter is true for short hairs as well. Matting seems to occur especially in leg, ear, belly and rump areas. For either breed, the best defense to matting is a good offense.
Professional groomers and veterinarians suggest cat owners brush or comb their cats’ coat—to the roots—at least every three or four days, or minimally once a week. Some longhair cats need daily brushing. It is especially important to keep longhair cats groomed because of their copious amounts of loose, dead undercoat. Left untouched, this undercoat often becomes matted. Check with your veterinarian or local groomers for proper brushing care of your particular breed.
You can find numerous tips on grooming on sites hosted by VetInfo, manufacturers of premium pet products such as Petco and Iams; and the ASPCA (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/groom-your-cat.html). Proper grooming won’t eliminate matting. However, frequent brushing/combing makes a clear impact. The Boutique Pet Shop groomers, with their over 100 years combined experience, and experts on these sites indicate that thorough brushing begins with the right tools. Check any of these sites for advice on the best ones for your cat.
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