Coat Type Matters
Cats come in a number of different coat lengths, including short-haired, medium or semi-long-haired and long-haired. They also have different types of coats, ranging from fine to coarse, and thin to dense. Some cats even have curly coats, and others have no fur at all. As someone (almost) once said: “Different strokes for different coats.” Short-haired cats require only an occasional brushing with a soft-bristled brush, or a grooming glove, to keep their coats tidy and to keep shedding under control. The fur of semi-long-haired cats needs a bit more attention. As you might imagine, the coats of long-haired cats require the most attention of all.
Prevent Mats from Developing
Long-haired kitties should be groomed regularly with a firm, long-bristled or wire brush. A metal comb, with rounded teeth to prevent damage to a cat’s sensitive and fragile skin, should also be used from time to time. Cats with thick, long, fine fur, such as Himalayans and Persians, are extremely prone to developing hair mats, especially under their legs (in the armpit area) and around their ears. These mats almost always develop if these cats aren’t groomed on a regular basis. Sometimes, they need to be brushed or combed every day. They say that “prevention is the best medicine.” Certainly, in our domestic cats, prevention is the key to mat control. Left unattended, hair mats can actually involve the tender skin, which is extremely painful for the animal. Regular brushing and combing of long-haired cats will prevent mats from developing. Even though it sounds like a lot of work, it really isn’t. You can groom your cat when he is curled up on your lap and you are watching television or chatting on the phone with a friend. Doing this every few days is much less trouble than having to deal with nasty hair mats.
Dealing with Mats
However, if your cat does develop mats, the safest way to break them up is to gently separate the bundled hair by hand. Don’t try to brush or comb the mats out. There are commercially available topical products that can be applied to the mats to help loosen them. Once the mats are broken apart by hand, the area can be brushed or combed out. This process can take quite a bit of time, and most cats don’t like it. Owners need to be patient. They should never try to remove mats with scissors. They probably shouldn’t try to remove mats with clippers, either, unless they are very skilled groomers. Cat skin is paper-thin and can easily be accidentally cut by scissors and other sharp tools. These skin injuries can be extremely serious. They often require immediate veterinary attention, which will involve shaving the affected area, cleaning it thoroughly, suturing and bandaging the skin wound and making repeated trips to the veterinary clinic to assess the cat’s progress in wound healing and eventually to remove the stitches.
Professional groomers who are used to working with cats can be life-savers when a cat is prone to developing mats and needs frequent combing, clipping and/or stripping. It’s a good idea to start a cat’s coat grooming regimen by 12 weeks of age, so that it becomes comfortable with the process. Again, most cats that start being groomed from a young age learn to enjoy being brushed and combed, much like most people enjoy getting a massage.