Yawncat Is Not Pleased.
Posted on March 2, 2006 Posted by John Scalzi 44 Comments
No, I’m not pulling her tail. She really is just yawning.
Question for a y’all, at least those of all y’all who are cat owners. Ghlaghghee here, being a longhair cat as she is, has developed some truly gnarly mats of hair while we weren’t paying attention — I mean, massive mats. Proto-dreadlock mats. Is there any way of getting rid of these mats short of shaving off huge sections of her fur, thereby making her look as if she had mange — which, while it would be amusing, seems a little drastic? I’m trying to avoid doing that but right now I’m coming up blank for other ideas. So I throw this out to the crowd.
Also, telling me that if I had a shorthair cat (or some other shorthair animal) I wouldn’t be having this problem is not helpful. Please avoid “helpiness” — comments that aren’t actually helpful because the’re predicated on perameters that are not relevant to the problem — and embrace helpfulness. The alternative is a shaved, naked cat. And then Yawncat here really won’t be pleased.
You can try a seam ripper and a comb and a lot of patience. Tease pieces of hair out in small chunky strands. Cut where it is impossible to do otherwise.
Other than that, it’s patchy bald spots.
Preventative maintenance, dude! You gotta brush poor phlophphi once in a while.
Yeah, you’re pretty much stuck teasing fur out of the mats where you can and cutting the rest off. It’s a huge pain.
Usually if you cut the mats into chunks, they come apart a little and you can tease more fur out of them than you’d think, so she might not be quite as bald as you expect she will.
Also, how often do you brush her?
Try cutting the mat down the middle (along the length of the fur) to break it up. On a big mat, you might have to do this many times over. Once you’ve made the sections of the mats small enough, you should be able to work the matted hair out without shaving.
Timmy says: shave the cat; not just the matted patches but totally.
I’m not interested so much in the initial, totally bald cat, so much as I’m interested in the later, bristly-with-stubble cat. Such a cat would be weird to pet, truly a once in a lifetime experience. Once in a lifetime, that is, unless it’s so cool you decide to do it again.
Whatever you decide to do, I hope you and your cat have a solid foundation of love and trust under your relationship. Otherwise, you’ve got some scratchy, bitey, and consequently ictchy days ahead of you.
I’m not sure if this would work on a long-haired cat, but there are shampoo-like substances I used on our medium-haired cat, when she went through a stressful period and refused to give herself a bath. (I’d just moved in, with two big dogs, and the cat went on strike, in a lot of ways.)
It’s a non-washout kind of shampoo, with nutrients for the cat’s skin & hair; it’s a little bit oily and they don’t like that “almost-wet” sensation but as soon as you start brushing, even a tempramental cat calms down because hey, brushing does feel GOOD. I got the stuff at Petco or PetSmart, one of those big places, along with a nifty brush that helped detangle. Actually, the stuff is a lot like a conditioner/detangler–I suppose it’s the oily feeling. Fortunately, when the cat bathes herself, the oil doesn’t hurt her at all.
But maybe you could try the detangling solution, and cut through the worst matting, brush, cut, brush, cut, and soak with detangling/conditioner/whatever-that-stuff-is, and perhaps cut down on the amount that’d be cut, that way.
And depending on the cat, a second person might be good. I didn’t need one, I found, as long as I kept the cat between my legs and sort of squished her feet into place–it takes a bit of practice, but you’ll get the knack pretty quickly of holding the cat with one hand and brushing/spraying with the other.
I have seen such things in pet supply catalogs called “mat combs” or “dematting combs.” I’ve not used one, though I’ve looked at them longingly when faced with our Maine Coon’s occasional mat problems–which we always resolve with small bandage scissors from Mom the Nurse, a lot of patience, and not a fair bit of angst. We cut the mat in chunks (“we,” because one person never can seem to tell when we’ve lost mat and have moved to cat. Hm. This is turning into a rather grotesque sort of children’s book).
If Mordred ever got bad enough, we’d drag him off to the groomers, I guess. As we do for his sister, who seems to have a fabulous combination of dandruff and perpetual dirty-butt.
This is why we have a shorthair.
(Not very helpful, am I?)
Our longhaired has the same problem, and we might comb the poor little thing if it weren’t for the two small children that demand most of our dwindling time and patience. The matted hairballs actually come out on their own, I’ve found – yes, I know how lazy that sounds – and the larger ones can be teased out if your cat doesn’t turn into a scythe-clawed Tasmanian devil if you tug at them a bit. They will leave bald spots, which are sort of unkempt and pathetic, but they don’t seem to bother the cat, and have a sort of pleasing doeskin feel that my wife finds ineffably creepy.
We have a short hair with the opposite problem – she began obsessively grooming herself after the first baby was born, and has licked herself bald on most of her extremities and her belly. Anyone have a solution for that?
My longhaired tomcat got those a year or so ago. It was awful. They got to the point that they were restricting his ability to move in certain ways, which meant that certain areas weren’t getting cleaned. Bleah.
He wouldn’t let me cut them out with scissors. I bought a special comb that was supposed to get them out, but he was having none of that either. Finally I took him to a pet groomer, who shaved everywhere on him except his head, the ends of his paws, and his tail. He looked like some kind of weird Dr. Suess poodle, but it solved the problem. And the mats haven’t been back, even though his fur grew back in by late spring.
Plus, he finally got to clean his nether regions. Which is only a good thing, for everyone.
Spainy gets ass-dreads too, being a fluffy Maine coon cat.
The trick is to brush her fairly regularly (ha!), and then to bathe her once in awhile (double ha!). Failing that, we get the scissors and hold her down. Trimming the worst out lets us gently tease the rest of it free, more often than not.
We have a short hair with the opposite problem – she began obsessively grooming herself after the first baby was born, and has licked herself bald on most of her extremities and her belly. Anyone have a solution for that?
That’s stress-related behavior, probably due to the new baby in the house. Some animals can’t handle an abrupt and complete change in routine. It took our cat about a year to adjust to the dogs; for that duration, she peed in the corner of the living room (but we wanted to replace the rug anyway, fortunately), she wouldn’t bathe herself regularly, she lost weight, and she’d howl from the study at three in the morning. Just to be annoying, I’m certain.
The vet suggested several things. If the cat is the only one drinking from her waterbowl, you can try the herbal relaxant, which you can get at the pet store. Hrm, I think it’s called something-remedy. It works for some animals, doesn’t for others. Failing that, talk to your vet about comacalm, which is a new medication for anxiety. Our (formerly abused) dog is on it while she adjusts to life with us, and it’s basically prozac for animals–the idea, however, is to put the animal on it, then slowly reduce the dose as the animal learns to associate the new relaxed state with the new routine.
Also check on allergies; there may be something related to the baby (shampoo, cleaning products, who knows) that is causing hot-spots for the cat, which can prompt excessive licking. But I’d think it’s most likely the severe change in routine, which can only be relieved by time–and if it’s really bad, a help-along of some kind of anti-anxiety medicine.
We had a double-coated outdoor longhair once – one of those thingees a hairstylist uses to do razor cuts works if you and the cat have the patience. Gloves and an old leather-sleeved jacket help too.
Shaving the matted spots is the best & most humane way to deal with it, unless your cat really digs being held down and brushed thoroughly. At the vet’s, we used to cut the mats into sections and groom them out to normal fur with a metal brush and comb, but sometimes, we had to sedate the cats in order to do it. Some cats can stand that much attention, some can’t, but fur grows back, and it’s no worse than a bad haircut if you decide on the shaving route.
Put that cat out of my misery.
Removing the mats depends on how much your cat will tolerate you messing with her fur. If she will let you, you might be able to tease the mats apart with your fingers or with a large toothed comb. Some cats get really sensitive about them, though, and you’ll want to take her to a groomer or the vet to have the mats removed. You want to be really careful about trying to clip them off yourself because depending on how nasty the mat is, it can also pinch the skin together and you could end up cutting your cat.
One of my cats has long hair that is incredibly thick, and he mats like crazy. I’ve tried all kinds of brushes and combs and the one that works the best to help keep the mats from forming is an undercoat rake (this is the best picture I could find of one online – http://www.jbpet.com/Shopping/product.asp?catalog_name=JBWholesale&product_id=182-0112&category_name=GroomingDematting).
I just snag him and do a few quick swipes whenever I get the chance (naturally, he also hates being groomed), and it’s really made a difference.
Seriously, just shave the cat evenly all over; the fur will grow back in a couple months and you won’t have to traumatize the cat. She’ll be unhappy with the shaving for about 10 minutes, then be glad the mess on her body is gone. Have it done professionally to minimize the trauma and even out the look. And start grooming her! Even if you have to pay someone to do it.
We have a cat who dreads up, and in the summer we get him a lion cut.
The only other option is patient brushing, this can be eased (somewhat) with the, sparing, application of oil. More effective detanglers are no good, because the aren’t so healthy when ingested.
I had a Persian who would knot up fantastically if he wasn’t brushed at least every other day. We’re talking Bob-Marley-Cat.
If the mats are too tight to work out with a comb and patience, you (and she!) are better off taking her to a groomer. As has already been pointed out, if you try to cut the mats yourself, you run the risk of hurting your cat (and if she still has claws, getting yourself hurt as well), plus she’ll end up walking around with little tufts sticking out all over.
Should the groomer decide that working the mats out will put undue stress on the cat, it’s entirely likely that she won’t even need a full shave. Sydney went under the clippers a few times – the groomers trimmed his fur to about half its usual length, and any remaining mats were much easier to work out.
What Nat said.
Also, if you don’t have a seam ripper, a salad fork works.
Break up the plate mats into smaller chunks and work on them a few minutes a day, up to the cat’s–and your–“thrashhold” of tolerance.
We used to be denned at by a semiferal long hair. The only time he would come and sit on a lap was when he wanted a mat worked on.
Our shorthair cats got matted once, but I agree with the person who said “maintenance!”. If you comb your cat even weekly (and in my experience they LOVE being combed), it would probably fend off those clumps. For our cats, we tried teasing out whatever clumps we could, and then cut out the rest. We haven’t had problems since, as we comb them occasionally (especially in the Spring/Summer). Good luck.
My parents adopted a couple of Maine-Coon mutt-cats a year ago. They both have long hair, but only one of them develops the huge, nasty dred-matts. The vet recommended a pair of human hair clippers — much cheaper than the pet version, and readily available. Also, with scissors it’s frighteningly easy to cut into cat instead of matt.
In terms of how to deal with the matt: cat hair will actually felt together. As in, it is possible to make felt out of the stuff. When fiber felts, little scales on the actual hairs lock together, and while if something isn’t felted strongly it may be possible to work it out, the fact is that a really nasty cat-matt is just that: really nasty cat-felt-chunks, getting felted onto the new fur as it grows and getting bigger. It isn’t like a heap of tangled string you can work out if you give it enough time — it’s turned into actual felt.
I’ve taken matts we’ve removed from Rascal (the nasty cat-matt king of the household) and tried to get them back into fiber-shape by carding and combing — even off the cat, even with lots of time and without having to watch claw-swipes, it’s just not possible to get those things back into fiber. Sometimes it’s possible to separate the old-fiber-felt from the new fur holding it to the cat, but it’s hard to do and cats aren’t generally fond of the process. If the matts are big and kinda spring back when you squeeze them, I’d suggest using the clippers and clipping as close to the mat as possible. The fur will grow back pretty quickly, and the cat won’t be associating brushes and combs with painful fur-pulling.
In terms of maintenance, I’d suggest one of the paddle-style pet brushes to add to whatever you have, if you don’t have one already. They’re pretty good at getting to the fluffy undercoat fibers.
You HAVE to shave the cat. I had a wonderful long hair for years and we had the same problems with matted fur.
Several reasons to shave:
1. Gives a whole new meaning to shaving the pussy. My wife and I still joke about this one years after the cat has moved on.
2. There’s nothing funnier looking than a long hair cat with a lion cut. What’s even better is the cat knows it’s funny looking.
3. After a short time the cat realizes it actually enjoys the new cut, especially if it’s a hot Texas summer. (watch out for sunburn though, especially if it’s not an indoor cat)
We’ve got a longhair probable-Maine Coon, and he’s large enough that he can’t effectively reach his hindquarters for cleaning. He gets a lot of mats back there (fortunately it tends to only be fur). Brushing does help, though he won’t always sit still for it. I usually tease the mats apart with my fingers, and snip out the larger ones with scissors.
If you get the cat shaved, go to a groomer. A good one will do a look that does not actually humiliate the cat, and usually they’re really happy to have the knots out.
If you cut out the mats yourself, be really careful — there’s sometimes skin caught up in those mats.
I have done both — cut out the mats when possible, brought the cat to a groomer when it wasn’t.
Everyone else seems to have already said what I was gonna say (to wit: you gotta brush longhairs regularly and even then chances are you may need to shave them once a year), so I’ll just add that I think “helpiness” needs to officially enter the language now.
We have a Maine Coon cat also who matts up. I work out the matts by “finger combing” – that is, pulling the mats apart into sections and then (gently) pulling out the loose hair. Of course this is totally dependant on the temperament of the cat…
“I’ll just add that I think ‘helpiness’ needs to officially enter the language now.”
Indeed it does. Be sure you attribute it correctly — not to me but to Cory Doctorow, who explained it to me at this year’s Boskone.
> The alternative is a shaved, naked cat.
> And then Yawncat here really won’t be pleased.
My anecdotal experience has been that every cat that’s gotten a lion cut a) hated the shaving experience and b) loved having short hair. At least two “grumpy all the time, don’t touch me” cats became “pet me, I’m happy” cats.
I regulary cut the knots of my long-haired “Nordic Woodcat” (if that is the correct brand) using scissors. Yes, that means some sections of her fur would start to look rather bald, if it weren’t for the fact that her other hair generally covers these patches.
If you do not want to go all the way, experiment on a small patch first. Also be careful not to stick scissors in its skin, cats generally frown upon such behaviour.
Add my vote to “Get the cat shaved”. Sure, the cat will detest the process, but the cat will also detest the much longer and most likely less effective process of you manually removing each mat. Don’t worry about discomfort; after the shaving, the cat will be fine. In fact, it will be a source of hilarity as the cat will go from looking big and gracefully “fluffy” to looking tiny and underfed with a friggin’ big head.
The fur will grow back to its normal length soon enough.
(I recommend having a vet do this, since they know how to shave closely and delicately for operations.)
Hello? Proto-Dreadlock There is a term for that that needs inventing. Just like Joseph Heller invented Catch-22. Have at it guys.
John, I have a nominally shorthaired tabby whose undercoat is thick enough that she gets mats just above her tail if we don’t brush her regularly. I have been able to slowly tease out and break up these nickel and dime sized matts, with much pissiness from said cat, but I can’t imagine removing actual proto-dreads from her without losing a finger or two.
Getting your cat shaved is one of those briefly unpleasant things she’ll have to endure, like vet exams and teeth cleaning, that actually serve her much better in the long run. Please, take her to a good groomer and get her shaved and give her some fast relief from the soreness, because if she has matts as you describe, she IS sore.
Once her fur comes back, make it a daily ritual to cuddle her and groom her to prevent the mats from coming back. If you actually sit down and watch TV news or The Daily Show for half an hour a night, that would be a good time to scoop her up and attend to her with one of the several tools people have recommended. My tabby adores the metal-loop-with-tiny-teeth thing we use on her, so you can probably find somehting effective your cat will love, too.
I would suggest using Aussie “Hair Insurance” spray-on conditioner. It’s great for working loose huge knots and badly tangled burrs from fur. You will still need patience, but the tangles should work free. I would recommend using a damp washcloth to wipe any excess off the fur when done, since I’m not sure how ingestible it is for cats (I mostly used it on my dog and my horse’s tail). Good luck!
Get one of those dematting combs pronto! Our Musetta gets serious dreads — ass dreads but also belly dreads, where she really REALLY hates to be brushed (and I have the scars to prove it). But I got a dematting comb from Petco that has wide teeth, but the inside of the teeth are sharp. So it separates fur but when it hits a mat, it cuts right through it. Musetta still isn’t pleased about the process, but it’s a lot less painful for both of us.
First, I love the red Akita on your sidebar. I miss mine.
Second, there are tools called matt breakers (check out http://www.groomersmall.com/acc_demattingtools.htm for examples). By using a mat breaker on a dry coat, you do lose some hair, but not enough to baldify the feline. Using them in conjunction with some human detangler solution will speed the process.
And after you have dematted Her Most Royal Catness, use a mat raker daily to remove dastardly mat causing loose hairs (a rake is a very quick groom) and brush her weekly with a slicker, for the really DEEP grooming.
And thank you for “helpiness”. I love that word.
I wonder whether “helpiness”, considering its source, is at all related to “not a question but a comment”?
For after the mats are gone and the regular brushing commences: If you know someone who likes to handspin thread from various fibers, they will love you forever if you give them what comes off in the brush. Probably. I have been making yarn out of the brush-leavings of my friend’s visiting medium-hair kitty, about 6 inches at a time. I’m not sure what to make out of it–we’re not likely to get enough for a hat or mittens. My friend suggests a needlepoint portrait of the cat himself. (Meanwhile, there’s a ziplock bag of husky-type dog underfur waiting for similar treatment. Probably something decorative there–wouldn’t want something wearable that could get wet and make the huskies’ owner smell like wet dog.)
After using a scissor and seriously dreading it, no pun intended, I switched to using one of those battery operated moustache type trimmers made by Conair. I accidentally nipped the cat’s skin with the scissor, so with this I just keep my finger under the mat, hold the shaver thing there and away it goes! She did have balding under the mats, so I plan to keep up on them.
Had the same problem with our long haired cat last year. Spent a lot of time with the scissors behind my back so the cat wouldn’t know I was going to cut his fur because I really didn’t want to completely shave him. This year, I had his underside shaved from his neck area to his tail by Petco between the Spring and Summer seasons when I first started noticing the mats. What a difference! Definitely worth the money! You can’t even tell his underside is shaved when you look at him. I know he’s happier, especially when it’s hot and he lays his shaved underside against the cool concrete.
The bottom line is: the matts are bothering YOU – NOT THE CAT.
Cats are perfectly built, even they hair has it’s purpose.
The fur keeps them cool in the hot days, as it keeps them warm in the winter-time.
(The cat’s skin is very sensitive.)
Do not shave your cat, it’s may couse serious health-problems (due to wheather).
Do not bathe your cat – unless she/he is very dirty – they are usually pretty clean anyway.
I have my 5 years old recently adopted long-haired cat, and I was trying to figure out the way, how can we make the matt away.
Then again: i know, he looks awful sometimes with the big chunks of matted hair on him … but he is ok with it.
So why should I piss him off by cutting his hair with the scissors, for basicaly no reason ? :o)
By the way: the skin is like a paper. If you cut it, you might end up with a bleeding kitty.
Do you want that?
Just take your time, comb him/her, and that’s the most you can do :o)
We have a persian who used to let us groom her twice a day however since we got our kitten she has turned into some sort of devil cat who will scratch me to bits when I try to groom her!! Anyway I now have to dress up like some sort of looney now to even get near her which includes gloves and some sort of heavy duty sleeves it works however the neighbours now think that I torture my cat on a regular basis, you can imagine the noise…… I am considering getting her shaved due to the stress caused to the cat and the major scratches caused to my poor hands!!! I think basically taking them to the vet for a number 3 shave is the only option!!
We shave our persian every few months or so and he is a much happier kitty. His personality actually changed for the better the first time we shaved him. It seems he did not like the tons of hair weighing him down. And, we don’t have to worry about dingle berries getting stuck to his butt and ending up somewhere in the house… The hair grows back VERY quickly!!!
really, I must say.
Teasing the fur out would really be a good idea,
if it were anything BUT a cat.
Cats are tempermental, and none I know would sit still for bath preparation, much less the grueling task of teasing out fur.
I would take her to a groomer. They may be able to suggest something.
After reading the comments; I am having my very matted Shadow Cat shaved. Today! Thanks for the help.