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Matted Cat Hair: How to Clean an Older Cats' Fur

As cats enter their golden years, extra attention has to be given to their grooming. Today, our Pleasant Hill vets, discuss the reasons why old cats' fur can get matted more easily and how you can groom them safely.

Should I Groom My Senior Cat?

Cats may find it more difficult to groom themselves as they age due to a variety of factors such as arthritis. It's critical to keep your senior cat's coat in good condition because an unkempt coat can lead to painful matting in their fur. Matts are even more painful for cats with less excess muscle or fat, which is common in senior cats. As cats age, their skin loses elasticity, increasing their discomfort with mats and making them more prone to injuries such as tearing and bruising.

It's always better to be proactive about your senior cat's grooming because it not only saves them from unnecessary pain and discomfort but also makes the task easier and more enjoyable for both of you.

Why Do Older Cats Get Matted Fur?

If you notice your senior cat not grooming themselves as frequently as they used to and their fur becoming matted, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Cats that do not groom themselves sufficiently can be a sign of an underlying medical problem that must be addressed as soon as possible. It's not always easy to tell if your cat is in pain because they are very good at hiding it.

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 are more likely to develop the conditions listed above. If you notice that your senior cat's fur is becoming more matted or that they aren't grooming themselves as well as they used to, contact your veterinarian, 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 for them.
  3. Brush them in the same pattern using different brushes, such as a rubber brush to collect loose fur, a pin brush to detangle fur (especially if your cat 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 attempt to cut, pull, or yank them because you may injure your cat. Instead, try gently loosening the mat with your fingers or applying a small amount of corn starch to the mat and brushing it through. If brushing out the mats on your own is too difficult, 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 with which you brush your cat is determined by the type of fur they have, as each cat is unique. Long-haired cats should be brushed once a day; however, if your senior cat has shorter hair, he or she can benefit from being brushed once a week. Keep in mind that the more frequently you brush your cat, the easier it will be. Your veterinarian will also be able to advise you on the best types of brushes and equipment to use, as well as how frequently you should brush your cat.

How To Clean Your Older Cats Fur

Most people are aware that cats dislike water, so it is natural for them to hiss, struggle, and fight when you go to bath them. Throughout the procedure, you must remain calm and speak to your cat in a soothing, calming voice. You should also keep the door closed to prevent them from fleeing.

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. Until your cat is completely dry keep them in a warm area.

Your primary care veterinarian will be able to advise you on how frequently you should bathe your senior cat. However, as a general rule, long-haired cats should be bathed once a month to keep them clean; short-haired cats or senior kitties should only be bathed when they are dirty or smell bad to protect them from infection.

If you have any more questions about grooming your senior cat, contact our Pleasant Hill vets today.

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