Mat Removal: How To Prevent and Remove Mats

Mats: the bane of the long-haired pet owner's existence.

Mats are the bane of many a long-haired pet owner. Even people who groom their pets regularly can find their comb tugging on yet another tangle. This isn't fun for your pet and it certainly isn't fun for you. Here are some tips for getting through tangles and preventing them from reoccurring.

Why Worry About Mats?

Mats consist of clumps of knotted fur. They can occur anywhere on a pet's body, but most often concentrate where there is a lot of long fur, such as behind the ears, the backs of the legs and around the tail area. Some people might view them as merely a cosmetic problem, but mats are actually a greater threat to their pet's health than they think. Mats are nasty little things. They start out as simple hair tangles, but can grow until they constantly pull on your dog or cat's sensitive nerve endings. Sometimes a 'sensitive' pet is actually a pet in constant pain from matting. Mats can hide injuries, encourage the development of hotspots and cause your pet to lick or bite at her skin, leading to further irritation. In the worst cases, mats can form around bodily wastes, causing bad odors and illness.

Preventing Mats

The best way to deal with mats is daily grooming. Frequently brushed and combed fur is much less likely to mat. The mats that do form are mostly going to be small and easy to brush out. A few moments every day, even if it is to brush out the 'trouble' spots, will keep your pet neat and clean. Spraying your pet with a coat conditioner can help the grooming process and keep the coat slippery so that mats have a harder time forming. Make sure that you purchase the right coat conditioner for your pet - cats should have products formulated for cats, for example.

Dealing With Mats

Small mats can sometimes be brushed or combed out with the liberal application of detangling spray or mineral oil. A slicker brush and metal comb with wide and narrow teeth can help pick through the tangled hair. If you have some heavy mats to work through, scissors are not your best option, due to the risk that you could cut your pet's skin or you may need to purchase a mat splitter. This is a specialized grooming tool that literally cuts through the mat. You can find these at some pet stores or grooming shops. Sometimes a mat is so big and close to the skin, you cannot cut it out or split it. In this case, you might have to enlist the help of a groomer or vet to shave it off the pet. At this point, the mat constitutes a health hazard to your pet, so use your best judgement for sensitive pets who hate vibration and clipper noise.

Using Scaredy Cut to Prevent Mats

Keeping an easily-matted coat short with Scaredy Cut is another low-stress, long term solution. The attachments function as a guard to keep skin from getting cut and keep the coat a uniform length for a smoother appearance. The combing action is also familiar and comfortable for most pets who accept brushing and combing, but who won't allow an electric clipper anywhere near their bodies.

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Julie MacTire is a writer and educator devoted to the world of dogs. She also writes a blog ( about her adventures with her Shiba Inu, Tierce, and is a supporter of many pet welfare organizations.

References & Resources

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Scaredy Cut is the gentle clipper designed for grooming sensitive pets.
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