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Cat mats and skin infections

Q: Frankie, my 12-year-old cat, is developing mats over his hips. Should I be concerned?

A: The sudden appearance of mats on the hind end of a cat, particularly an older cat, warrants investigation. Mats restrict air flow to the skin, allowing sores and skin infections to develop.

The most common reason for mat formation in cats like Frankie is arthritis of the back or hips, making him too uncomfortable to twist around and groom his hind end. Overweight cats also have trouble maneuvering to remove hair shed from the belly and back end.

Another possibility is that Frankie is shedding more than usual, perhaps because of fleas, and his usual grooming regimen can’t keep up with the hair loss. Make an appointment with your veterinarian, who can determine the cause and recommend treatment.

Regardless of the cause, you can help Frankie by combing out the mats. Don’t try cutting them out, because it’s too easy to inadvertently slice his skin.

If the mats are so thick that he resists your efforts, ask your veterinary team or a cat groomer to shave them off. If Frankie complains, your veterinarian can sedate him to make the procedure less stressful. Afterward, you’ll be able to maintain Frankie’s smooth, mat-free coat by combing him daily.

Editor’s Note: Pet owners know it’s a struggle to keep their cats’ hairball free. Here are tips to help minimize hairballs in cats.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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