Matted fur can be really uncomfortable for an animal. The tangles pull on the animal’s skin, which can lead to irritation and even infections. Luckily, in some cases, you may be able to remove the mat yourself. Try gently combing through the mat, using a detangler if necessary. If that doesn’t work, you may need to carefully cut the mat away. Of course, if you have any hesitation or concerns, bring the animal to a veterinarian or a professional groomer to get it checked out!
EditAssessing the Mat
- Try combing the mat first if you can work your fingers into it. Press the mat between your thumb and first finger, or your first 2 fingers if the mat is very large. If the matted fur separates beneath your fingers, or your finger and thumb touch through the fur, you may be able to use a comb to gently detangle the mat.
- Typically, the earlier you can catch a mat, the easier it will be to detangle. That’s why you should examine your pet’s coat daily, especially if the animal has long hair that’s prone to tangling.
- If the fur is matted together to the point that it feels hard, trying to detangle it may cause unnecessary pain or stress to the animal, and it could even cause it to become aggressive.
- Cut the mat if the fur is matted tightly but it’s not against the animal’s skin. Even if the mat is too serious to detangle with a comb, you may still be able to remove it yourself. If you can work your fingers beneath the mat and clearly feel that there’s a separation between the tangled fur and the skin, you may be able to safely cut the mat away.
- If you have any question about whether it’s safe to cut the mat, take the animal to a vet or a professional groomer.
- Call a professional groomer if the mat is tight against the skin. Sometimes, when fur gets really matted, it can press tightly against the animal’s skin. Folds of skin can even become trapped in the mat, which can lead to a severe laceration if you try to cut it away.
- You should also call a professional groomer if the mat is somewhere very sensitive, like on the abdomen, under the neck, or around the genitals, or if the animal is scared or aggressive.
- Cats in particular can be very skittish when you’re working around their abdomen, even if they’re normally very tame. A scared cat might curl around your hand, kicking with its back feet and gripping you with its front claws as it tries to bite you. A professional will know how to avoid these dangerous situations.
- See your vet if there is any irritation on the skin under the mat. If you notice any redness, inflammation, or broken skin beneath the mat, the problem might be too serious for even a professional groomer. Instead, have the animal examined by a vet and ask them how to proceed.
- Serious issues, including irritation and infection, can occur when a mat sits against an animal’s skin for a long period of time.
EditCombing Mats and Tangles
- Don’t wash the animal before you try to remove any mats. When you see an animal with dirty, matted fur, it might be tempting to give it a good bath right away. However, if you wash the animal before you detangle its fur, the mats will tighten up as they dry, which will make them even harder to remove.
- In addition, the mats might prevent the soapy water from penetrating the fur all the way to the skin, making the bath ineffective.
- If you’re detangling dog hair, you may want to bathe the dog after you detangle its fur. However, avoid bathing a cat unless its fur is greasy or smelly. They typically groom themselves, and you’ll just stress it out.
- If the mat is in a horse’s mane, you can use a special horse shampoo to wash its mane after you finish detangling it.
- Use your fingers to break up any tangles and mats as much as possible. Place the animal on a towel on the ground or a sturdy table, and sit or stand close by. Run your fingers over the animal’s fur, breaking up as many mats and tangles as you can by hand. Separate loose hairs from the mats and gently work out any knots you can, but don’t pull or tear at the animal’s fur.
- Detangling mats can be a long process, and it can be stressful on the animal, especially if you’re yanking with a comb the whole time. Using your fingers can help soothe the animal, and will decrease the amount of time you spend pulling on the mat.
- Try petting the animal as you detangle its fur to help calm it down. For instance, if you’re detangling a mat on a cat’s side, reach up every so often and stroke the cat’s cheeks or chin. That way, it will associate the grooming with positive attention.
- Break apart larger mats with a comb, working from the outside in. If you come across a mat that you can’t detangle by hand, you’ll likely need to break it up with a wide-toothed metal comb. A brush is not as effective at removing mats, because it won’t penetrate the fur as deeply. Grip the mat securely with one hand, as close to the skin as you can get. Then, try to pick apart the mat with the widest end of your comb, using short, gentle strokes. Start at the end of the mat furthest from the animal’s skin and work your way inward.
- Do not yank on the mat, as this is likely to upset the animal. Also, avoid raking the comb directly across the animal’s skin, as this could cause irritation over time.
- This part of the process takes time and patience. Work in small sections, and if the animal starts getting frustrated, take a break. If it creates a negative association with the grooming process, you’ll have a harder time keeping the mats from coming back.
- If you’re detangling the fur on a treat-motivated animal like a dog, cat, or horse, offer it treats and plenty of soft, soothing praise if it’s acting calm and relaxed.
- Saturate a stubborn mat with a detangling product for that specific animal. Deep conditioning products contain oils that can help the animal’s fur slip out of the mat. If a mat is too tangled to comb out, soak it with a detangler and let it soak in for about 30 minutes. Then, come back and try to break the mat apart with your fingers or comb it apart.
- Because animals have different skin pHs, you should never use products intended for another animal. For example, you shouldn’t use a conditioner for a horse’s mane on a dog. However, you may find some detanglers that are intended for both cats and dogs. If that’s the case, it should clearly say so on the label.
- Also, never use human skin or hair care products on an animal.
- Go back over the area with a fine comb or brush once you remove the mat. Many combs for animal grooming have a wider side and a fine-tooth side. If that’s the case, comb back through the animal’s fur with the finer side once you’ve gotten most of the mat free. This will help you catch any smaller tangles that might be left behind.
- If your comb is only one width, use a smaller, fine-tooth metal comb, or go over the area with the animal’s normal brush. For example, you might use a small slicker brush on a long-haired cat or a bristle brush for a dog with a medium coat.
EditCutting out Mats Safely
- Use a razor comb to try to cut out the mat first. A razor comb, which may also be called a rake tool or a mat splitting tool, looks like a wide comb with long, sharp teeth. Press your hand against the animal’s skin to help reduce pulling. Then, work the teeth of the razor comb under the mat and gently pull down in the direction the hair grows. Don’t yank; just allow the tool to gently slice through the matted fur as far as it will go. It may take several passes to cut through the hair holding the mat in place.
- Doing this will remove smaller mats, but it may also help loosen the tension on larger mats, helping the animal be more comfortable as you continue.
- You can find these tools at most pet supply stores. Choose a size that’s best for your animal. For instance, you would want a smaller razor comb for cats and small dogs, and a larger tool for larger dogs.
- This tool is very sharp, so always use caution when you’re using it. Also, be sure to always have the sharp ends pointing upward, away from the animal’s skin. Similarly, don’t apply too much pressure on the tool, as it’s easy to accidentally rake the skin and cause injury. Take special care around angled areas like the legs and tail.
- Cut out large, stubborn mats with hair clippers. Use your hand to pull the animal’s skin as flat and tight as you can around the mat. Then, turn on the clippers and lightly run them over the very surface of the mat, moving in the direction that the fur is growing. If you need to, you can make several passes, gently running the clippers over the surface of the mat each time. However, don’t clip all the way to the animal’s skin—just stop once you’ve removed the bulk of the mat.
- Before you try to use clippers, make sure the animal is stable and calm, and have someone else hold it still, if you can. Speak to the animal in a soothing voice to reassure it throughout the process, and stop if it gets agitated.
- If you’re grooming a cat, it may help to have someone gently hold it by the scruff of its neck. This can actually help calm a cat, since it’s the way mother cats carry kittens when they’re young.
- If the animal is so matted that it needs to be completely shaved, take it to a professional groomer. If your cat typically experiences a lot of stress during grooming, it may be best to take your cat to the vet, who can sedate your cat and remove all of the mats. Not only will this make your cat more comfortable and stress-free, it will also prevent your cat from becoming more fearful of grooming in the future.
- Check the clippers every minute or so to make sure they aren’t too hot. Clippers can get really hot, which can burn the animal if you’re not careful. About every 60 seconds, turn off the clippers and lightly touch your hand to the blade. If it’s uncomfortably hot to the touch, it’s too hot for the animal. Wait a few minutes for the clippers to cool down before you turn them on again.
- You can also use a cooling spray designed for clippers to help keep the blade from overheating.
- Try to detangle the fur with a comb once you’ve removed most of the mat. Often, removing the outer surface of a mat will help loosen it enough that you can finish the detangling process with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. If you still can’t loosen the mat, clip away a little more fur, or call a professional if you’re concerned you need to clip too close to the skin.
- A detangling spray may also be useful after you’ve removed the bulk of the mat. Saturate the animal’s fur with the spray and let it sit for about 30 minutes, or the amount of time recommended on the product label. Then, gently comb the animal’s fur to loosen any remaining tangles.
- To prevent mats in the future, groom the animal regularly. The more consistent you are, the more likely the animal is to accept and even enjoy being groomed.
- Take breaks to keep the animal from becoming overwhelmed.
- Do not use scissors to cut mats out of an animal’s fur. You could accidentally cut it or yourself.
- If an animal seems scared or aggressive, take it to a professional. The animal may need to be sedated in order to safely remove the mats from its fur.
EditThings You’ll Need
EditCombing Mats and Tangles
- Wide-tooth metal comb
- Fine-tooth metal comb or brush
- Detangler, corn starch, or coconut oil (optional)
EditCutting out Mats Safely
- Razor comb
- Hair clippers (optional)
- Cooling spray (optional)
- Detangler (optional)