Meet Little Ms. Clumpy
October 29, 2008 2:46 PM   Subscribe

My cat's fur is suddenly getting matted. Why, and what can I do about it?

My little freak of a cat is developing mats in the fur on her hind legs, and more on her right side than her left. She's a 10-year-old short-haired orange tabby, by the way, and is 100% indoors. Her winter coat is developing, as it does every year, but this has never happened before. I'm brushing her daily, but it's not doing anything for the mats. I've been trying to loosen them, but she gets really squirmy after 10 seconds of that.

Her diet hasn't changed recently, nor has her overall health. She is not overweight.

She used to be a fanatical groomer. I've started paying attention to her grooming habits lately, and have really only seen her groom her front half. (Then again, she could be doing it when I'm not looking.)

Any theories on why she's getting matted all of the sudden? Is this something that will work itself out as winter comes on? Any tips for getting rid of the mats, or should I just wait it out? I thought about smearing some butter on her hindquarters in an attempt to get her grooming, but that might just freak her out.
posted by mudpuppie to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
this happens to my longhaired cat periodically and unfortunately the only thing that i have found works completely is the basically start over. you gotta cut the mats down as close to the skin as possible, or get her shaved at a groomer or the vet's. otherwise they're like dreads, they keep growing back like that. at least with my cat.
posted by Soulbee at 2:52 PM on October 29, 2008

This happened to my cat this summer. I added some oily fish to her diet (sardines) which according to someone on AskMe, made her fur tastier. I also wetted down her fur to make her be a better groomer.

And, of course, I cut out the matts. She didn't like it, but he helped her leep herself better groomed.
posted by k8t at 2:57 PM on October 29, 2008

My cat developed the same problem around the age of 10. My vet said it was most likely a form of arthritis that just makes it more painful / harder to reach her hind legs. Soulbee's experience matches that of my cat; shave the fur in the relevant areas and let it grow back better. Wash and brush your cat frequently to prevent it from reoccurring, and feel a little sad that your friend is getting a little bit old and having a rough time grooming herself.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:58 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd be concerned about a short-haired cat getting mats. The arthritis thing is a likely culprit, as Dee suggests. I'd be wanting to test my cat's ability to reach the rear by, I don't know, touching her there to see if she follows my touching with licking or something. My cat is 10 and recently started visibly struggling just the tiniest bit when jumping onto my bed. I know of another 10 year old cat that has to claw her way up onto furniture because she really can't jump anymore due to arthritis.

If the mats are greasy feeling or looking, rather than dry, I'd take her in for a checkup with bloodwork. Is she peeing any more frequently? Drinking more? If yes to any of these, I'd be slightly concerned about thyroid or diabetes.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2008

We have an older long haired cat, who often gets matts on his sides near his back legs.
We had him shaved once when we first got him a couple years ago as he had matts, and it was fairly traumatic for him.

Since then we've gotten good at dematting him with a pin brush (the one that looks like a hair brush with metal pins) and a wider cat brush (the one with the ton of L shaped pins)

It sometime takes a couple days of chasing him down, and getting under them with the pin brush, sometime we do need to cut at them, but mostly it's the brushing upward on the mat, usually while holding him under his belly and giving some good pulls.

He sometimes gets a little upset by it, but at the same time seems to appreciate it, since he will come back for more.

It we are good with the pin brush and the other brush he usually doesn't get the matts back, but sometimes when he does it just takes a couple days of directed attack to get rid of them.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:51 PM on October 29, 2008

I don't think she's arthritic -- she's really quite agile and spry. I just got her right flank all wet, and she spent a good deal of time cleaning it, so she can reach back there.

I hadn't thought of diabetes. She's always -- since kittenhood -- been a huge eater and drinker. (She far out-eats the big cat, who's just plain fat. The little one weighs 8 pounds. I have no idea where the food goes.) She drinks a lot too, but she always has. She just likes water.

I was hoping to avoid the vet, since I can't even afford my own healthcare right now. Didn't think to connect it to diabetes/thyroid, though, so maybe we'll have to do that.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:53 PM on October 29, 2008

My long-haired cat started getting matting in the hindquarters as she got older. When she was around 10, I could just cut off the occasional clump with scissors, she'd start fresh, and it wouldn't be a problem for months. In her old age (she lived to 18) I just bought some professional clippers and shaved her rear half regularly.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:58 PM on October 29, 2008

I have a 17 lb. longhair that gets matty every once in a while, and really doesn't like being brushed on his hindquarters and belly too much (where the mats occur).

To help with the brushing and occasional shaving (to remove bad ones), we found a cat mask/muzzle. It covers most of his face and acts like blinders and helps calm him down. I usually get someone to help me if I'm going at him with the clippers. The muzzle buys me quite a bit more time with him before he gets really pissed and starts to kick and claw. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to mind getting the muzzle put on and wearing it.

Here it is
posted by glycolized at 5:46 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can get a mat comb with teeth that helps get them out. We had to do that with our cat right after we adopted her because she was all matty. They never came back, but we still use it to brush her. She loves it.
posted by sugarfish at 6:28 PM on October 29, 2008

our older cat would get those on her hindquarters as well. even if she is not arthritic, she may just be less flexible as she ages. we just cut them off--it looks a little ratty, but it's better than the alternative, which is a rash under the mat.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:30 PM on October 29, 2008

If you decide to cut out the mats, please do not use scissors. I see a lot of well intentioned pet owners in the animal ER with lacerations made with scissors. Buy a cheap pair of clippers. If you end up going to the vet to check her out for diabetes/thyroid problems, they may be willing to make a couple of quick swipes with their clippers for you.
posted by little miss s at 6:35 PM on October 29, 2008

My kitty started getting clumpy with age and fatness. I didn't want to shave her, so I just had to patiently work to get (and keep) the clumps out.

If your kitty loves being petted, as mine does, just keep some good blunt-tip scissors and a shedding blade near your favorite sitting spot and wait for her to come to you. I found that chasing after my kitty was counter-productive.

You don't necessarily have to cut the clump and the hair all the way off; you can cut the clump into pieces (cutting with the blade perpendicular to her kitty-flash) so it untangles from the rest of the fur, and work it loose with your fingers. Use the shedding blade gently, and just be patient. The shedding blade gets a lot of loose hair off, and, when used gently, will not snag or catch on the clumps, but should help work them loose little by little.

It will take some time and some patient work, but you should be able to get her cleaned up without drastic measures. After the clumps are gone, you will have to be faithful about brushing her. Congratulations! You get to be her surrogate tongue!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:17 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

My dad's cat had this problem, and it turns out it was because he had a tooth infection, which was presumably making it painful for him to groom. We got the mats shaved off in the vet's office with a clipper, a good teeth cleaning, and he's now fine and able to groom himself. We do brush him every other day or so to keep the mats from forming again.
posted by bedhead at 7:45 PM on October 29, 2008

It's a good idea to have your cat see a veterinarian, as a decline in grooming is often the first sign of some underlying illness. It may be costly, but it is almost always less costly to catch any problem early, than to wait until it has progressed. If everything turns out normal, at least you have peace of mind.
posted by citizngkar at 12:38 AM on October 30, 2008

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