You are reclining on your favorite chair watching a sitcom. Bubba plops his furry body on your chest and you give him an affectionate chucking under his chin. OOPS! What's this? A nasty mat of hair, all wadded up, clinging to his skin. Whatever you do, do not go for the scissors!
Cats with long hair tend to have a very thin outer layer of skin and cutting out a mat of fur can cause a really nasty injury. Even a small nick can split the skin and create a gaping hole.
As a rule, only semi-long and longhaired cats will get mats, but sometimes a shorthaired cat with an extremely dense coat is also susceptible to this maddening dilemma.
Daily Combing Prevents Mats
Daily combing will prevent long hair from becoming matted. Make sure the comb's teeth reach all the way to the skin or you will just be grooming a superficial area. A 7 1/2-inch long Belgium Greyhound comb with 1 1/8-inch long teeth is a good tool to use to de-tangle a mat.
Greyhound-style combs can be hard to find, but they are worth the search. Sometimes vendors at cat shows will carry them. Another source is Revival Animal Health. Greyhound combs and comparable "Peak" combs can be purchased from their catalog by calling 1-800-786-4751 or contact their Web site at www.rivivalanimal.com.
Take the end of the Greyhound comb and start picking at the mat gently. You will notice that the hair starts to loosen after awhile. Remember to be gentle and patient. Pain will trigger aggression in a cat who will associate grooming sessions with torture! Begin the session with play, and then gradually comb the areas that don't seem to bother your cat. If the cat starts to misbehave, stop the session and resume combing only when the cat is calm and rested. Try to avoid pulling and tugging at the mat. The constant gentle picking action will eventually cause the mat to begin to loosen from the skin. As it starts to move away from the skin you can become a little more aggressive in combing it out.
Shaving - Leave It to a Professional
Sometimes a longhaired cat's coat will become so matted that is referred to as "felt matted." The hair all over the body has the consistency of a felt pad. When this happens, the only humane thing to do is to shave the cat. Take the cat to a professional groomer or a vet if you do not want to attempt shaving the cat yourself. If you decide to periodically shave your cat yourself, you might want to invest in a good pair of clippers. Oster makes some of the best clippers for cats. The best blade to use when clipping a matted cat is a #10 blade.
Don't try to shave a cat without having someone demonstrate the grooming process to you. Or purchase an instruction book like the "Guide to Home Pet Grooming" by Dr. Chris Pinney. It has an informative text and also color photos that demonstrate the best ways to bathe, brush, comb and clip a coat.
By shaving the cat, you can start with a "clean slate" and it might be easier for you and your cat.
Brushing Equals Bonding
Daily brushing also provides a bonding experience if performed gently because the cat will view your preening over the coat as an act of affection. An English flea comb works well on the face especially around the eyes.
Some breeders prefer to use "pin brushes" to combs when grooming their cats. A pin brush has steel pins set into the base of the brush. The pins reach deep into the undercoat to gently lift out the tangles. Pin brushes are available at specialty pet stores, from cat show vendors and from catalogs.
Things to Remember When Combing