How to Painlessly Get Mats Out of Cat Fur

Tips to Painlessly Groom Your Pet

Gray and black cat being brushed with dematting comb

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

De-matting is a process where you comb or shave through mats in your feline's fur. Mats are often comprised of clumped dead hairs, dead skin cells, outdoor residues, and any other kind of dirt your cat has rubbed against. Mats in cat fur are not only unsightly, but they are also painful to your cat. They can lead to skin irritation and infection if they're not removed.

De-matting a cat is typically not a fun experience for the feline or the human. It's important to take things slowly and be patient since mats are often difficult to remove in one sitting. You may want to enlist the help of an assistant because even though this technique is the easiest and least painful way to get rid of mats, it takes a lot of diligence.

Matted Fur in Cats

Most cats groom nearly constantly (or so it seems), and it's not just due to vanity. Fur licking keeps a cat's skin healthy and stimulates sebaceous glands in the skin to produce oil to lubricate the fur. Sometimes, the fur will become matted in areas, requiring human intervention. These mats may make your cat's fur feel lumpy or knotted when petting them.

What Causes Matted Cat Fur?

Usually, grooming keeps the fur clean and prevents fleas from taking hold. But sometimes mats may form, particularly if something becomes stuck in its fur or a cat neglects to groom properly. Mats may also form in certain areas due to friction or contact with surfaces.

Cats may stop or decrease grooming due to illness or behavioral concerns. Overweight or senior cats may have difficulty reaching certain areas of their bodies, leading to mats that often develop along the lower back.

Certain breeds of cats (Persians, Maine Coons, and other long-haired breeds) are more likely to develop mats due to their coat types.

Why Is Matted Cat Fur Bad?

Matted clumps of fur can be significantly painful for cats. Mats may get tighter over time, putting pressure on the skin that can lead to bruising and skin irritation. Matted fur prevents airflow to the skin and may trap dirt, bacteria, and even parasites. The irritation caused by mats can easily lead to a skin infection. In addition, the skin under mats becomes thin and fragile, making it more likely to become injured.

The sudden appearance of mats often means the cat is unwilling or unable to groom. If your cat has stopped grooming altogether, this could be a sign of a serious health issue, and a trip to the veterinarian is in order.

It's important to remove mats from cat fur promptly to avoid pain and irritation of the skin, If there are one or two spots of stubborn matted fur, and your cat seems to be grooming normally, you should be able to take care of them at home. If there are a significant number of mats, or if your cat seems especially uncomfortable, seek help from a professional.

How to Comb Out Cat Mats

Small mats that aren't too tight to the skin can often be carefully combed out by hand. Removing mats from cats takes a steady hand, a lot of patience, and sometimes more than one person to keep the cat calm.

Getting Started

It's best to groom a relaxed cat. You won't want to suddenly decide to remove a mat in the middle of a play session, or you'll suffer serious damage from claws.

You'll need a fine-toothed comb, a little cornstarch or baby powder, and some tasty cat treats.

Sprinkle a small amount of cornstarch or talcum powder in the area of the mat, and gently work it around with your fingers. Gently pull the mat up away from the skin, so you can see where the skin is.

If the cat resists, take a break and speak in a soothing voice, petting the cat until it relaxes. Repeat this soothing at any point during the procedure if your cat starts getting stressed out.

Using the Comb

Starting with a separated section of the mat, use your non-dominant hand to hold the base of the mat down with your thumb and forefinger so the comb won't pull hair out. Gently start combing through the mat piece, starting at the very tip of the hairs. Move down into the mat as you work, occasionally using only the first three or four pegs of the comb, for stubborn sections.

With short-haired cats, a small slicker brush may be used next to slowly and gently brush through any remaining tangles.

Give your cat a final treat and stop for the day. Depending on the severity of the mats, it could take several days to tackle them all, and you need your cat's cooperation and patience, so don't push it all at once.

Mat in cat fur being combed out with fine-toothed flea comb

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Matted fur pulled away from skin with comb

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

How to Remove Cat Mats With a Clipper

If the mats are too tight to be removed with a comb, you may wish to try shaving them out with clippers. For cats, it's best to use small, battery-operated clippers that are quiet and less likely to frighten your cat.

Introduce the Clippers

First, you'll want to take some time to get your cat used to the sound and feel of the clippers. Offer treats, then turn on the clipper from a distance for a few seconds. Gradually increase the proximity of the clippers while continuing to offer treats. Stop the clippers if your cat becomes fearful. It may take a few days for your cat to get used to the slippers.

Shave out Mats

First, comb or brush out the non-matted areas on the cat. To shave mats, hold the flat end of the clippers parallel to the skin and gently slide the clipper blade under the mat. Use your fingers to gently pull the mat away from the skin as you guide the clippers under the mat.

Take plenty of breaks, especially if your cat is getting restless or resistant. Give kitty a small treat and plenty of praise for their patience.


Do not attempt to cut out mats using scissors as you may accidentally cut your cat's skin. This can cause a serious wound that will require surgery to repair. If it looks like the job requires scissors, consult a professional groomer or a veterinarian.

How to Prevent Matted Cat Fur

The best way to prevent mats is to brush out your cat regularly. This is especially important if you have a long-haired cat. In addition, feel over your cat's body during routine petting to determine if there are tangles, knots, or mats present. The sooner you can address small mats, the less complicated they'll become.

When to Get Professional Help

Seriously matted cats require professional attention. A professional groomer can typically address multiple mats if the cat is not in significant pain. However, some cats will need light sedation to keep them comfortable while the hair coat is combed out, cut, and shaved to remove mats. This will require a trip to your veterinarian.

Some cats will need their full coats shaved down in order to remove all mats. If this drastic step is necessary, be sure to maintain a regular program of brushing and combing when the coat grows back in order to prevent future problems.


  • Never bathe a cat before removing mats. You'll only have worse problems on your hands.
  • For small tangles that haven't yet formed "felt," try spraying with a small amount of pet hair conditioner before combing. Be sure to use a pump-type spray rather than aerosol, which will scare your cat.
  • This tedious procedure will almost always work better if you have a helper to hold and comfort the cat while you work.
  • Are there home remedies for cat matting?

    Cornstarch or baby powder can help loosen mats and make it easier to comb them out.

    Some pet parents have reported that placing a drop or two of olive oil under mats can help them fall out in a few days. If you wish to try this, be sure to use a very small amount of olive oil as your cat may ingest it while grooming. Too much olive oil can cause stomach upset. Do not use essential oils or non-food oils on your cat.

  • Is matted cat fur painful for cats?

    Yes, matted fur can tighten on the skin and cause significant pain to cats. Clumps of fur also lead to skin irritation and may cause skin infections. In addition, matted fur may indicate a lack of grooming, which is often a sign of illness in cats.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

Watch Now: Why Do Cats Purr?

Article Sources
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  2. NCC. Can I cut my cat’s matted fur? | nova cat clinic | arlington, va. NOVA Cat Clinic - Arlington, VA, Cat-Only Veterinarian Hospital.