The nightmare of the Persian type coat aka dealing with mats, plain or mixed with feces

Good grooming practices are essential for maintaining health and happiness for you and your cat. This is a forum to exchange tips and advice for proper care of your cat's hygiene needs.

Angel Hallie- (5-15-96/11-- 7-12)

Please consider- adopting an- older cat!
Purred: Mon May 16, '11 7:09pm PST 
Of all the breeds of cats & mixes thereof, the Persian cat presents unique grooming challenges. Persian type coats mat very very easily, due to the cottony quality of the undercoat. That profuse cottony undercoat is what causes the Persian coat to stand out away from the body In addition the Persian cat, including the Himalayan variety, is brachycephalic with a broad flat face & pushed in nose. Ihe combination of the cottony undercoat & the Persian broad flat facial structure with the pushed in nose results in a cat who structurally CANNOT effectively groom itself & who also has the coat type that most easily develops mats & is the hardest coat type to groom & keep well groomed. Such cats MUST have major grooming help from humans & can easily develop life-threatening problems if they don't receive adequate human grooming help.

Inadequate grooming & attenton to flea control in Persian type cats can quickly lead to deadly flea infestations. hen I used to help at an animal emergency care facility & in the summertime it was common to see Persian cats coming into the clinic dying of flea anemia, meaning the cat had such a severe flea infestation it was literally being sucked dry of blood. Immediate blood transfusions were required in addition to other treatment & some of the cats I had at that time served as clinic blood donors. The owners of these cats were unaware their cats even had fleas or that anything at all was wrong until their cats collapsed, because the fleas were almost impossible to see by just looking at the cat. Fleas live on the skin under the coat, a matted coat is a fortress from heaven for fleas. Large flea infestations can easily kill puppies, kittens, cats & small dogs.

A cat with a Persian type coat can very easily develop a mat of hair & feces under its tail. If the mat isn't detected & removed soon after it first develops, the fecal/hair mat will get worse to the point to where the anal opening is completely blocked, resulting in the cat becoming impacted & unable to defecate at all. Long before such hair fecal mats reach that level of severity, they cause the skin under the mat to break down & become inflamed, raw & infected. Simply keeping the hair in that area of the body regularly trimmed short prevents the problem from developing. Incidentally when I had show collies I used to keep their hair under the tail around the anal area always trimmed short and nobody, not even judges, ever noticed.

The Persian cat is not a natural longhair. The Persian coat and brachycephalic facial structure came about through many generations of selective breeding for those characteristics. Natural longhaired cats such as the Maine Coon, Balinese, Norwegian Forest Cat to name a few, as well as the typical longhaired nonpurebred cat, have a coat type with coarser texture that is entirely different from Persian coat type Natural longhairs coats don't stand out away from the body the way the Persian coat does because the natural longhaired cat has a coarser "wash & wear" type of undercoat. Natural longhaired cats coats are much less likely to develop mats than Persian coats & when such a cat does develop mats, its usually either due to the presence of oily or sticky substances in the coat or from a foreign body in the coat such as a burr becoming entangled in the coat and forming a mat that the cat cannot remove on its own. Natural longhairs are much less prone to getting feces caught in their hair although in situations such as diarrhea where loose stool soils the coat or constipation where fecal matter is eliminated slowly enough it has time to get stuck in the cats hair, it may be necessary to trim the hair in the area under the tail of a natural longhair.

The areas of a cats body which are most prone to developing knots & mats include the area under the tail, the area on the insides of the hindlegs and between the hindlegs, the pants hair on the back of the hindlegs, the underside of the tail close to the body, the chest area between the forelegs & behind the elbow, the throat, & the area directly under & behind the ears.

One of my cat family is a rescue Shaded Silver Persian named Milo who hates being groomed. Since he's an old cat the risks of anesthetizing him to groom him outweigh the advantages, thus he has to be securely restrained for the safety of both himself & the groomer which is usually myself. To prevent the problem of fecal/hair mats from developing under his tail, year round I always keep his coat trimmed short all around the area under his tail, & on the backs & insides of his hind legs so there is no hair long enough to come into contact with his anal area. I also trim the long hair on his feet, particularly the area between his pads, Persians have long hair between their paw pads & dirty cat litter, etc can easily become stuck in it & cause problems. In the warmer months in addition to the year round rear end trim, I trim the rest of his coat short which makes it much easier to deal with & fleas cannot go undetected.

Since I don't have a groomers clipper and blades, like most pet owners I have to remove the mats & groom the cat by hand. One of the best tools I've found for dealing with mats is a thin mat splitting tool that has a handle with the blade end sort of resembling a sickle. The bottom part of the blade section is blunt, the cutting blade is on the topside of the blade section. Thus you can take the tool, hold it perpendicular to the cat, insert the blade end under the mat, and as you pull the tool upward away from the cat's body, the blade will cut through the mat and split it. When you do this, the blunt safe side of the blade end is next to the cat's skin, the cutting edge on the topside slices through the mat as you pull the tool away from the cat's body. After you've split the mats into much smaller pieces, often it will be possible to simply gently take your fingers & pull some of the mats out of the cat.

Other mats must be cut out with a scissors. A thin sharp scissors works best in my opinion, because as I pull the mat away, I can gently clip the hairs that are holding the mats onto the skin. To avoid cutting the cat's skin when using scissors on a cat you want to make sure to have good lighting so you can clearly see what you're cutting and with each individual cut, only cut the area where you can clearly see that you're cutting hair and not skin. You're most likely to cut into the skin when you try taking a larger cut further into the mat than you can see. Immediately after you finish the job, your cat may not have the prettiest hairdo but his skin will be relieved. If mats are allowed to remain in a cats coat, they get bigger and the bigger they get, the harder they pull on the skin, to the point where the skin will rip open, creating open sores which are very likely to become ifected. Even worse, flies can lay eggs in those sores which then hatch into maggots which will burrow into the cat's living flesh and literally be eating the cat alive. Maggots release a toxin which will make the cat systemically ill and if the cat isn't taken to the vet for removal of the maggots and treatment, the cat will likely die. Its definitely worth the effort to keep the cat groomed regularly, deal with mats promptly, treat the cat monthly with topical flea drops-the Advantage brand of flea drops still works, fleas have been immune to Frontline brand flea drops for several years now.

There should be a law that a cat shouldn't have a coat any longer or thicker than what the cat itself is able to groom! And btw all cats hack up hairballs now and then, most of them have a penchant for hacking up a hairball wherever the chance is greatest for a human to encounter the hairball in the dark while walking barefoot through the house!