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Old 08-25-2009, 09:04 PM
Green Cymbeline Green Cymbeline is offline
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Need advice on grooming elderly cat with matted fur

I am cat-sitting for my aunt's 4 cats. One of them, Pitty (as in "pitty-pat," or the sound her feet make) is about 18 years old. Her fur is terribly matted on her back and I am wondering if and how I should groom her.

Background: Pitty has some sort of growth/lump on her neck which has been growing slowly over the past year. The problem is, my aunt does NOT have the money for a vet visit, and I think she figures that Pitty is so old that it wouldn't be worth it (note: I do not agree with this necessarily, but I have no money either, or else I would take her to the vet myself).

The growth does not appear to cause Pitty any pain. You can touch it and she doesn't wince or flinch or anything. In my non-expert opinion, it seems to be some sort of soft fluid-filled cyst as opposed to a solid tumor. It is about 2 inches in diameter, and pretty much spherical in shape, just under her skin.

Otherwise she appears to be in good health. She eats and drinks regularly, is of a healthy weight, is in good spirits and very sweet and affectionate, although she does sleep a lot.

Anyway, the lump apparently prevents Pitty from grooming the fur on her back, and it's really matted in clumps. They actually look like short dreadlocks.

Should I cut out the mats, even though she will be temporarily bald? Would being bald be more uncomfortable than having the mats? Any tips on how best to groom her?

I do feel really bad for her, as I know she would be much better off going to the vet and a groomer, but unfortunately my aunt has no money, and I am unemployed at the moment. But I would like to do what I can to help her be more comfortable.
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  #2  
Old 08-25-2009, 09:16 PM
Crawlspace Crawlspace is offline
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My best advice would be to pick-up a dematting comb. If that's too expensive, a pair of scissors works pretty well. Just cut the dread in one or two planes parallel to the hair. That should detangle enough of it to brush it out. Just make sure to work methodically from one mat to the next
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Old 08-25-2009, 10:40 PM
Risha Risha is offline
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Go ahead and cut them out with scissors. It won't look that great to you, but she won't care, and heavily matted fur will eventually start to pull at her skin and slowly rip itself out. And icky stuff can end up caught in the mats.

Also: my Persian stopped letting me brush her several years ago, so I cut out any mats and shave her every couple of months. Last week, I found a huge abscess under one of those mats. She had to have some minor surgery to fix it.
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Old 08-25-2009, 11:03 PM
Hanna Hanna is offline
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I wouldn't cut them - it is way too easy to accidentally cut the skin and I've seen some horrifying photos of cats whose well-meaning owners tried to cut the mats out and ended up cutting the cats to shreds. I accidentally cut my own skin with scissors a few weeks ago and OMG! It hurt like hell! My cut stung for days; I can just imagine the pain with multiple cuts.

If you absolutely cannot afford a professional groomer to shave the cat, I've had luck with a fine tooth metal comb and lots of time and lots of patience. The hair is dead and will pull out, but don't yank too hard or the cat will get mad and not let you do it anymore. Hold the mat close to the skin and try to comb so it doesn't pull on the skin.

My late cat Abby had fine silky fur that could form mats overnight, and I had to comb plenty out of her fur.
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Old 08-25-2009, 11:28 PM
Green Cymbeline Green Cymbeline is offline
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I went ahead and started to trim her (before I saw Boscibo's post warning against it). It went very well, although she only allowed me to do it for about 5 minutes and I only got about 1/8th of the way through. I was very very careful and luckily there is about 3-4 mm of clearance of non-matted hair before the mat starts, so I hold the mat between my thumb and forefinger at the skin and cut above my fingers (so if any skin gets cut, it's mine). This is also good because it leaves just enough hair left so you can't see bald spots.

I think she knew I was helping her, and she was purring a lot, but got annoyed after 5 minutes, so I will keep at it a little at a time until I am done.

She has a lot of dandruff buildup under the mats, so I am brushing out the remaining fur with a fine-toothed metal comb and will wash her down with a damp washcloth after I am finished.

Last edited by Green Cymbeline; 08-25-2009 at 11:29 PM..
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  #6  
Old 08-25-2009, 11:54 PM
dragonlady dragonlady is offline
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Next session try sliding the metal comb between the mat and the skin. This should prevent you from accidentally cutting her. I just got three persians (had cats, even long haired...boy! not the same!) And I've been warned by everyone I've asked for advice not to cut the cat! Their skin is apparently very thin and if you nick them, they will bleed really surprising amounts, not at all like a person or a dog. Two of my cats had to be completely shaved, one from mats, one from BEING LET OUTSIDE in the country, with the resulting stickers and cockleburrs. Both have grown back, took months. Take it slow, but DO remove them. The mats will actually pull the hair and thus the tissue underlying them. And good luck!
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  #7  
Old 08-26-2009, 02:28 AM
Magiver Magiver is online now
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If it's truly matted then I work each clump out by hand separating the hair until I can I use a furminator comb to thin it out. It's very labor intensive. It's tough to thin out the coat if it's still matted because the hairs remain bound together. Either the clumps have to be cut out or separated.
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  #8  
Old 08-26-2009, 11:29 AM
BMalion BMalion is online now
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a flamethrower?
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  #9  
Old 08-26-2009, 12:44 PM
MissTake MissTake is online now
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Until being shaved last week, the Bernie was okay with using a fine toothed comb (I like these) and gently, starting from the end, comb through moving upwards through the mat. I kind of jab at it, rather than dig in and pull through. Where her mats were particularly bad, I'd rub a little corn starch into the mat and take it bit by bit from the outside in. When done, I'd take a wet washcloth and wipe the corn starch out.

I've also found using spray fur oil makes getting through the mats easier. You can find many types at PetCO/PetSmart for less than$10. The plus with using the oil is it does help prevent matting from reoccurring as quickly.

Sadly, last week, I snicked her elbow while trying to cut a mat out. Ergo, she is now an almost nekkid old cat.
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  #10  
Old 08-26-2009, 04:23 PM
Shodan Shodan is offline
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If you are going to shave your aunt's pussy, we need pictures.

Regards,
Shodan
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  #11  
Old 08-26-2009, 11:30 PM
Green Cymbeline Green Cymbeline is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
If you are going to shave your aunt's pussy, we need pictures.

Regards,
Shodan


I am about to begin round 2 of trimming. I'm hoping I can make some more significant progress. Thanks for the advice everyone!
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  #12  
Old 08-26-2009, 11:33 PM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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While it sounds like you're being careful, I can only advise to NEVER USE SCISSORS!! I wish I had seen this thread sooner.

It doesn't matter how careful you are, if the skin is folded up into a mat, you will not feel it with your fingers, and even if you are using them as a buffer, you can still cut the skin. Cat skin is very, very, very thin, especially old cat skin. Please take it from a professional and don't try it again!

You have no money for a vet visit, but you're doing something that nearly guarantees the need for a wound repair, which could entail sedation and sutures, and bloodwork if you have a careful vet. Probably $300-$500 at an ER.

Try a seam ripper, or pulling apart with your fingers, or a dematting comb (for cats). It can be a painstaking process, but it sounds like you have the patience, and she has at least 5 minutes at a time's worth. If you have, or know anyone who has electric clippers such as barbers shave heads with or groomers use, those are safe and while the cat will have shaved spots, she will be much more comfortable and the fur will grow back.

Please, please, drop the scissors.
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Old 08-26-2009, 11:46 PM
Sarabellum1976 Sarabellum1976 is offline
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I have two persians myself and when they get matted, it does help them to carefully snip a little bit at the mats. The mats can actually be exerting pressure on the skin. To see what I mean, carefully snip one of them in half - watch the two halves spring apart! This must be quite a relief. The areas underneath mats are usually mostly bald anyway, and has dead skin built up since the cat can't groom herself there. You can just continue to cut the halves in half, and so on and so forth until there's practically nothing left to them and they just comb out.

Don't use sharp-ended scissors. Try fingernail scissors they make for babies - they have blunt ends. And always begin and end every grooming session with an extended petting/ear scratching session. Leave kitty wanting more.
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  #14  
Old 08-27-2009, 12:16 AM
MissTake MissTake is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaDragonTattoo View Post
...It doesn't matter how careful you are, if the skin is folded up into a mat, you will not feel it with your fingers, and even if you are using them as a buffer, you can still cut the skin. Cat skin is very, very, very thin, especially old cat skin. Please take it from a professional and don't try it again!

You have no money for a vet visit, but you're doing something that nearly guarantees the need for a wound repair, which could entail sedation and sutures, and bloodwork if you have a careful vet. Probably $300-$500 at an ER.

...Please, please, drop the scissors.
While it bugs when people type this...
This.
Luckily the vet was able to superglue the scissor cut, but I can't get the picture out of my head and the guilt is horrendous. It was also $140 that I didn't really have, either.
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Old 08-27-2009, 01:12 AM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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Doesn't it figure I missed the OP's post by 3 minutes? I was still typing, I guess, when she posted! I hope this session went OK, I've been cringing since I read it.

I really can never, ever recommend, even grudgingly, the use of scissors of any kind. Doesn't matter if they're pointy, blunt, made for kids, it's not necessarily the points that do it, it's the lengthwise cut, and you'll have no idea you're cutting the skin until it's already happened. The matted fur gives far, far more resistance than the skin does, so it's not like running into your own finger or something.

I've seen a LOT of these. Anywhere from a nick to a 4-inch gash. It's always an accident, wasn't meant to happen, the people aren't trying to hurt the cat. They've just never been told not to use scissors, and they never knew they were cutting the skin until they saw the aftermath when the mat came loose. It really is playing with fire.
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Old 08-27-2009, 02:17 AM
Green Cymbeline Green Cymbeline is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaDragonTattoo View Post
Doesn't it figure I missed the OP's post by 3 minutes? I was still typing, I guess, when she posted! I hope this session went OK, I've been cringing since I read it.

I really can never, ever recommend, even grudgingly, the use of scissors of any kind. Doesn't matter if they're pointy, blunt, made for kids, it's not necessarily the points that do it, it's the lengthwise cut, and you'll have no idea you're cutting the skin until it's already happened. The matted fur gives far, far more resistance than the skin does, so it's not like running into your own finger or something.

I've seen a LOT of these. Anywhere from a nick to a 4-inch gash. It's always an accident, wasn't meant to happen, the people aren't trying to hurt the cat. They've just never been told not to use scissors, and they never knew they were cutting the skin until they saw the aftermath when the mat came loose. It really is playing with fire.
SeaDragon & MissTake - Saw your posts and got the message. I won't be going near Pitty with scissors anymore - just the comb and brush! Thank you so much for your valuable information. I was scared of hurting her, and now I am not going to take any more chances.

So if I can get some barbers clippers, I can use those? My mom has a nice set she uses to cut my dad's hair.

Ouch, the thought of a kitty's skin being cut is making me cringe and kick myself for putting her in potential danger!

Last edited by Green Cymbeline; 08-27-2009 at 02:18 AM..
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  #17  
Old 08-27-2009, 06:54 PM
lizardling lizardling is offline
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I went looking at petco's website, and they carry a number of pet clipper kits that come with guards (ranging from about $30 to GAH!). Can I assume that these are less dangerous than a pair of scissors?

My semi-longhaired cats tend to get squirmy when I try to brush them, and it's only with a great deal of coaxing that Cat #1 will tolerate the brush made out of rubber nubbins. Cat #2 will tolerate the wide-toothed metal comb though, as long as I keep giving her lovins.
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  #18  
Old 08-27-2009, 09:05 PM
freckafree freckafree is offline
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I have a cat who is very prone to mats. You are doing a good thing trying to make Pitty more comfortable, because, as Sarabellum1976 said, they do pull on the skin. I keep thinking about how much it used to hurt when Mom pulled my hair into the tightest ponytail imaginable.

I try to keep on top of the mats, but when it gets out of hand, the kitteh goes to the groomer. It's not that expensive and well worth it.
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Old 08-27-2009, 10:49 PM
Hanna Hanna is offline
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Yeah, a groomer probably wouldn't be more than the cost of a nice set of clippers. They really aren't that expensive in my experience.
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  #20  
Old 08-28-2009, 03:16 PM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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As long as the clippers are like these, they should be fine. Look for the ones that are "quiet" with an enclosed motor, and the kind with just one non-removable blade are much less expensive than the removable-blade ones, though they can be a little less easy to use, but a good solution and fine for an occasional mat-shaving and nothing elaborate. As long as you can test them against your skin and not nick yourself, they should be OK for kitty.
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  #21  
Old 08-28-2009, 11:25 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Another way to clear matter hair is a bath with detergent. Once wet with detergent water, it's fairly easy to comb them out.

And the only skin likely to be damaged is yours, when the cat shows her dislike for baths.
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