Old cat's fur matted in clumps

I have a small, long-haired black female cat whose fur has gotten into matted clumps on her back. I found her and adopted her about 13 years ago and she was already grown then, so she could be as old as 15. She’s never been affectionate and so I don’t pet her on her back much. She’ll let you stroke her head from time to time. Anyway, I noticed what looked like a ridge on her back and when I touched it, it was a big clump of fur. It’s like she had given up on grooming that spot and it has turned into a big creepy dreadlock-y mass of fur (no disrespect intended to Rastas).

This happened to her once before years ago when she was younger. I took her into the vet and he cut out the clumps of fur. Now that she’s older, a trip to the vet is quite traumatic for both of us. I wouldn’t attempt to cut the clumps out myself. She’s too skittish and I would be afraid of injury to her or me. In other ways, she’s spry and lively. She runs through the house and can still jump up on the sofa and tables.

I’m inclined to just leave it alone. I don’t think there’s any way these clumps will go away by themselves, but are they doing any harm just being there?

Here’s a picture of her in better days.

From what I understand, bad matting can be very uncomfortable, even painful, for an animal. I’d get it looked into, somehow. Can your vet precribe a tranquilizer for her? That may make a vet trip less traumatic, or even enable you to cut the mats yourself. Yoo also might look into professional grooming for her. Gentle skritches for kitty What’s her name?

I never have this type of problem with my cats, but my havanese dog has long silky hair, which gets matted from time to time, and (according to my vet) does cause him pain and pulls at his skin, so I cut them off whenever I find any matted clumps. I use blunt tip scissors, and I would suggest waiting till your cat is napping, and then trying to cut it out, even if it is just a little at a time. Good luck.

Her name is Cleo. :slight_smile: Thanks for the ideas. I could try to cut them out myself. We’re not talking about small grape- or ping-pong-ball-sized clumps, but one or two long clumps the size and shape of half a hot dog. So it’s not like they’re connected to her skin by a small “stem.” They’re more like something along the ridge of a mountain, with the mountain being her back.

They can. Matts can get so tight they literally tear the skin apart. They can be very painful.

The matts are probably due to arthritic stiffness in her back/neck/hips that make it too painful to groom herself back there, or something like hyperthyroidism that changes the hair coat a little and makes it easier to matt. If you can’t deal with it yourself, you’ll have to try a groomer or the vet. I’d recommend senior bloodwork as well if you go to the vet.

Clipping it yourself is indeed fraught with danger for both of you if she is fractious at all. It is way easier than you can imagine to slice her skin, in which case she’d need a surgical repair. One thing you might try if she would tolerate it is slipping a wide-toothed comb under the matt and cutting just the top half off, and only immediately over the comb. Then try to comb out what’s left of the matt. Again, way easy to slip and cut the skin, or to get a little shredded yourself if she objects.

Use clippers, not scissors, with a short guard. If you ignore them, they won’t “go away,” and in fact will get worse over time as more hair gets caught in the tangles.

Reading these replies (thank you), there’s NO WAY I can do this myself… I’m going to call the vet.

Yes, the vet will shave the clumps out. After the cat is de-clumped, she needs to be brushed to prevent future clumping.

I had a cat who wasn’t much of a groomer and her fur would clump in certain areas. I could snip one clump per day with scissors. I could do the first clump because she wasn’t expecting it. After that, she would run away. It worked but it was a slow process.

I have a cat that gets matted (he has the oddest coat – it’s like he’s double-coated, with guard hairs on top and silky stuff underneath), and it’s definitely a job for the groomer or vet. I usually end up getting my kitty a lion cut once a year.

It’s easier than it sounds. If you just cut across the clump, don’t try to get between it and the skin, it will loosen up, allowing you to cut a little closer, loosen it up again, etc. One tool that’s handy as you get nearer the skin is a cheapo letter opener like this.

The 1st cat who ever chose me as his favorite had this issue. He was Huge (coloring of a tuxedo, size of a Maine Coon, temperament of a …well… me…?). Brushing him just concentrated the clumps & made him bite. Enter 1 thick sweatshirt, three thick bath towels, and one old battery powered trimmer. After securing him as best I could & holding tightly with my left arm, I trimmed the clumps off as quick as I could with the trimmer (turning it on only at the last minute).

My blood loss was minimal (puncture wounds heal quickly) and the clumps were gone. Inside of an hour, all was forgiven as he realized he was rid of his rump-lumps.

I declumped one of my cats. It was a combination of me tediously pulling each clump apart and then thinning them out with a ferminator. VERY time consuming. The cat was patient enough plus I rewarded her with lots of petting.

When my lovely Tabby got older she became prone to clumpy fur. Sounds like she might’ve been like Cleo: fierce, independent and not very cuddly.

At one time she suddenly seemed to be going down hill and I found some dreadlocks on the belly (not a place she usually let me touch). When she was relaxed and sleepy I very, very slowly and painstakingly groomed them out. I did it so slowly, starting at the tip the way you would with tangled hair, she barely noticed. I would do a little snip if necessary, then a tiny bit of brushing. Every time she opened an eye and noticed me touching her belly I would get an angry nip, but I’d settle her back down and start again.

Maybe Cleo would be ok with that? Depends on the cat & the coat, I suppose.

Tabby recovered that time, and lived to be a very old cat at 21.

Thanks for that. I’ve dealt with countless well-meaning people who thought they were being careful, but still managed to slice and dice their kitty’s skin. Cat skin is very easily folded and could be in places inside a mat that you wouldn’t think it could be. It’s also very easy to cut and is often in pieces before people realize the scissors have even cut anything.

A trip to the vet is no fun, but you’ll be going anyway and with more urgency if her skin gets cut. Depending on how long it’s been since she’s had bloodwork done, your vet may recommend it (a senior panel) to make sure everything’s OK, including her thyroid levels. Matted fur can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism, as well as it could be simply arthritic old stiff kitty just can’t reach any more. Even then, perhaps your vet could recommend at least a glucosamine supplement for the stiff joints.

Good luck!

She looks like a Cleo. I have a tempermental beastietoo. A little extra effort is required to love them, no? But they’re worth it. Poor baby, I hope she is clump free soon!

Goodness, that could be my family’s cat. Who is also difficult. Does yours play the game where she gives you the cold shoulder for an hour or so after you get home?

I knew a golden retriever who got mats behind her ears. Her owners had a conditioner that they could spray in that made it easier to pick the mats apart. They still had to use scissors on the worst of it, though.

Bacon fat, maybe?? :cool: Then get the other dog to clear them out?

Seriously, y’all, thanks for these great replies. Cat people are the Best. (Dog people are good, too.) (I also have two dogs.)

YAY Thelma! Let the vet demat her. Then teach Cleo about the brush, and give her brushpettings often.

No, he generally comes running to greet & sniff us. He’s just fidgety and standoffish because I suspect he was mistreated before we got him. It’s like he’s afraid to be loved. :frowning:

Awww… poor guy. :frowning: He’s so lucky y’all found each other.
For years Cleo wouldn’t sit near me or anything. She’d sit on the back of a chair on the other side of the room and run if I came near her. But these days, her headquarters is on the back of the sofa where I usually sit, right behind my head. She even gives my head a gratuitous and unsolicited head-butt every now and then. I still have to be on guard if I pet her, as she will swat with only a nano-second’s warning. She does seem to be mellowing a little.