To Demat or To Not Demat, That is the Question

What are mats?

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Mats/matted fur/matting refers to densely tangled clumps of fur in a pets coat. The feel of the fur can resemble a rope, dreadlock, or tight balls that are difficult to pull apart.  The size can range from the end of a pen to the size of your pet’s head or even larger.  Matting can range from localized small areas to covering the entire pets body.  This article will explain causes, effects of matting, prevention, and removal of these troublesome clumps.

Causes

To fully understand matting, one needs to understand their breeds coat.  Breeds have different types of coat, thus having different types of mats. Three terms to help understand a breeds coat are fur, coat, and hair.

  • Coat– This term generalizes all pets’ hair that covers its body. There are two types of coats, a double coat and a single coat.
  • Fur– This term is used to describe the soft, fuzzy hair that lays closest to the skin. Breeds that have a double coat have both fur and hair. Fur can also be called an undercoat. This hair provides insulation to the pet.
  • Hair– This term is used to describe the stiff hair that extends past the fur. Breeds that have a single coat have hair. Hair can also be called the topcoat.  This hair repels water and shields from dirt.

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Double coat and single coat pets have their set of matting trouble.  However, the causes of matting are the same. There are 3 common causes of mats- weather/seasonal change, activity, and age/health.

  • Weather/Seasonal Change– Spring and Fall seasons bring about changes with your pet’s coat. Double Coat Breeds will shed its old fur/undercoat, preparing itself for new fur for the upcoming season. Warmer climate environments and indoor-only pets, where the climate is temperature controlled, results in a year round shedding of the fur/undercoat.  Weather can cause matting as well.  Double or single coats wet from rain that are either towel dried or left to air dry without brushing can result in clumpy mats.  Snow creates a double effect with a damp and frozen coat holding the hairs together until it clumps.
  • Activity– Exercising your pet is an important responsibility as an owner. However, playtime can cause matting.  Wrestling, running, and playing with pets, humans, or toys will cause the hair to tangle in single and double coat breeds. The longer the hair, the easier it is to tangle.  Inactivity can cause matting as well.  If your pet prefers lying on one side, the coat on that side can clump together.  Rubbing on objects like couches, trees, climbing into a litter box, etc. can also cause matting on the area that is being rubbed.
  • Age/Health– As a pet gets older, their hair can become brittle and lose its elasticity and luster. Conditions such as dandruff, allergies, thyroid, yeast, and parasites such as fleas, etc. can all cause an imbalance to the pet’s coat and overall health.  Weight issues can result in lack of being able to clean themselves properly which affects their coat and can cause matting as well.

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Effects of Matting

The effect of a matted coat depends on the severity of matting and the length of time the matting has been left on the pet’s body.   Small matting that is not close to the skin does not generally have adverse effects other than the possibility of the hair breaking off around the location of the mat. Larger mats that are close to the skin can pull out new hair growth from the root and can be painful.  Matting around a joint, extremity, or tail that is left for a long period of time can result in loss of circulation to the area, prevent proper mobility, and can create skin irritation.   Matting that covers a large area of the body can suffocate the skin, can be a breeding ground for parasites, and can cause skin problems such as infection, yeast, and allergies.  Excessive hair and matting can also cause blockages in the intestines or hair balls as the pet may try to clean itself and remove the mat on its own.

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Prevention and Removal

Removal depends on the type of mat.  If the mat is not severe, meaning excessively  tight, large or close to the skin, it can be brushed.  If a mat is very close to the skin, very large (larger than 2 inches in diameter), or is in a sensitive area (groin, armpit, neck), the mat may need to be removed.  Please do not use scissors at home.  A pet’s skin is thin and can be cut easily.  Also brushing a matt that is close to the skin can result in a cut or injury to the skin.  Severely matted pets need to be seen by a professional groomer or veterinarian to have the matting removed.

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Prevention is as simple as brushing your pet.  Make sure to brush all the way down to skin without injuring the skin.  Double coated pets need to especially have the undercoat or fur brushed during seasonal changes.  Long hair on single coated pets require more extensive daily brushing to prevent a simple tangle from turning into a matted disaster.  The two videos below give you an idea of how to brush and the proper tools when brushing.   Also researching your particular breed online will give ideas and tips for brushing and keeping your pet’s coat in shape. 

Additional Resources

Click on the links below to further your research on matting

ASPCA 
AKC
The Cat Guide
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