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Why do older cats get matted fur, and what should I do?

As cats enter their golden years, extra attention has to be given to their grooming. Read on to learn some of the reasons why senior cats' fur can get matted and how regular grooming can help your old cat look and feel their very best.

Grooming Senior Cats

As cats get older it can be harder for them to groom themselves for a variety of reasons such as arthritis. It's important to keep your older cat well-groomed because an unkempt coat can lead to painful matting in their fur. Matts are even more painful for cats that don't have as much excess muscle or fat which is fairly common among senior cats. As cats age, their skin also loses elasticity, which increases the discomfort they feel with mats, and makes them more prone to various injuries including tearing and bruising.

It's always better to be proactive about your senior cat's grooming because it saves them from experiencing unnecessary pain and discomfort, it also makes the task easier and more pleasant for both of you.

Matted Cat Hair

You may notice that your senior cat isn't spending as much time grooming as they used to, which can lead to matted fur. If your old cat has matted fur, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment with your vet. Cats are very good at hiding pain, if your kitty is not grooming themselves sufficiently it could be a sign of a painful underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention.

Some reasons why your senior cat might not be grooming themselves as often or as efficiently include:

  • Dental problems
  • Osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease
  • Increased skin oil production
  • Obesity

Geriatric cats can be at a higher risk of developing the above conditions. If you see your senior cat's fur becoming more matted or they aren't grooming themselves as well as they used to, contact your vet who will be able to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

How To Brush Your Senior Cat

As we said above it's very important to keep your senior cats' fur well-groomed to keep their fur from matting. Below are tips on how you can brush your senior cat's fur:

  1. Brush your cat in a place where they will be comfortable such as on a soft mat.
  2. Start by petting your cat from head to tail, looking for any problem areas that are sensitive to them.
  3. Brush them in the same pattern switching between brushes, including a rubber brush to collect loose fur, a pin brush to detangle fur (especially if your kitty has long fur), and a metal comb to help brush through mats.
  4. First, brush your cat with the rubber brush and work your way to the metal comb.
  5. If you find mats on your cat's fur DO NOT try to cut, pull, or yank them because you can hurt your kitty. Instead, you can try to gently loosen the mat with your fingers or apply a bit of corn starch to the mat and brush it through. If it's too hard to brush the mats out by yourself take your cat to a professional groomer.
  6. Pay extra attention when brushing around your cat's hips, underbelly, and hind legs because these areas can be sensitive for older cats.
  7. If you notice any lumps, bumps, or sensitive-to-touch spots on your cat's limbs or joints call your vet so they can give your kitty a checkup. 
  8. Give your feline friend lots of calming praise and some treats during the process. You can also help distract your cat by giving them some of their favorite food to munch on.

The frequency you have to brush your cat depends on what type of fur they have because every cat is different. Typically, long-haired cats should be brushed once a day, if your senior cat has shorter hair they can benefit from being brushed one day a week. Remember the more often you brush your cat the easier it will be. Your veterinarian will also be able to provide you with advice on the best types of brushes and equipment to use and can inform you how often you should brush your kitty.

How to Clean an Old Cat's Fur

Most people know that cats don't like water, so it's normal for them to hiss, struggle and try to fight when you go to bathe them. You must stay calm and talk to your cat in a soothing calming voice during the entire process. In some cases, it's a good idea to wear thick gloves and long sleeves and don't forget to keep the door closed so they can't run away.

Here is how you can bath your senior cat:

  1. Fill a large plastic bin or your bathtub with enough warm (not hot) water to cover their underbelly.
  2. Make sure you brush your cat first and that they are free of any mats or tangles.
  3. Gently place your furry friend into the tub, reassuring your cat by giving them praise and petting them.
  4. Carefully wet your cat's fur with a cup full of water or a wet cloth. Keep your cat's head and face dry to prevent any irritation to their eyes, ears, and nose.
  5. Lather your kitty in a special cat shampoo (do not use human shampoo) avoiding the head and face.
  6. Using a cup or a detachable showerhead rinse the soap off of your cat. To prevent any irritation make sure all of the soap is rinsed off (this could take several rinses).
  7. Wrap your cat in a clean, dry towel and pat them dry. Don't use a hairdryer because it can burn their sensitive skin.
  8. Keep your cat in a warm room until they have completely dried off.

Every cat has different needs, your primary care veterinarian will be able to tell you how often you should bathe your senior cat. However, a general guideline is to bathe long-haired cats about once a month and brush daily or weekly, short-haired cats or senior kitties will only need to be bathed when they are dirty or smell bad. Keeping your senior cat clean and well groomed helps to guard them against infection and keep their skin feeling healthy comfortable.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our Morton vets take pride in helping senior cats maintain an excellent quality of life as they continue to age. Contact Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital today to book an examination for your elderly cat.

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Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Morton and surrounding areas. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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