Tangled fur isn't just a cosmetic issue for your kitty, it's also a threat to his health. Long-haired cats tend to have a harder time keeping their coat in order, but those with short hair can develop mats too. Even fastidious felines need occasional assistance to keep their fur neat.
Mats are itchy and annoying, prompting your cat to scratch the area to get some relief. A thoroughly tangled bunch of fur won't come undone so easily though, so your kitty may end up scratching himself bloody. The mats can also get caught on woody vegetation or a pointy object. Your pet may free himself of the mat when he pulls away from where he is caught, but the force can also damage his skin. Matted fur is also a ready-made shelter for fleas and other parasites.
Tangled fur traps bacteria, dirt and moisture next to your kitty's skin, creating perfect conditions for a skin infection. Sores from scratching give bacteria easy access to his bloodstream, further exposing him to pathogens. Some fur mats can actually squeeze your cat's flesh, rupturing blood vessels near the surface of his skin, according to Best in Show Grooming Salon.
Your kitty might not be so cute when she's retching up a hairball, but it's a normal process that all felines go through as they clean themselves. Ordinarily, a cat will expel the wad of ingested hair without much difficulty, but hair mats are a different story. If your pet manages to pull a hair mat loose and swallow it, the hardened ball of hair could block her digestive tract, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Solid clods of hair are also harder for your kitty to cough up.
For pet owners, preventing hair mats is about as easy as brushing your cat several times a week. Culling loose fur also makes it easier on your cat, since she won't have to lick and swallow all the hairs she sheds. Pay special attention to fur around your kitty's armpits and belly, because she has a harder time keeping those areas in order herself. If your kitty has some brush-resistant mats, use a metal comb to pull at the tips of the knotted hair to undo the tangle. Work your way down the hair as the tips of the strands come free. Don't try to cut out matted fur with scissors, because it's easy to accidentally clip your pet's skin. Take her to a grooming salon or veterinarian if a stiff comb and brush aren't enough to straighten her coat.