Not grooming and skin conditions are normally the reasons why your cat has greasy and clumpy fur. Long-haired senior cats that lack the flexibility to groom may experience oily and matted fur. In fact, your cat’s fur can become a textured mess if a painful joint issue reduces your cat’s mobility.
While under-grooming and a greasy coat are far more likely to be a problem as your cat gets older, it is vital to rule out other health issues. Health conditions that affect the skin could well be the cause of your cat’s greasy and oily appearance. If that is the case, then no amount of grooming is going to fix the problem. The cause needs to be medically understood before your cat can be treated correctly.
In this guide, we will look at why cats groom, what it achieves, and the causes of greasy and unkempt fur. We will discuss ways to groom your cat and untangle a matted coat. Finally, we’ll discuss the situations where the matter should be referred to a vet.
Cat Fur and Grooming Habits
Cats are grooming professionals. Most healthy cats spend an average of 30-50% of their day grooming. Beginning almost right after birth, kittens start to groom themselves (without help from mom) at around the 4-week mark.
Cats are built for grooming because they are intelligent, flexible, and born for the task. From a cat’s rough tongue, teeth, paws, etc., everything comes together to serve as a working unit. We’ll explore why that’s so crucial shortly.
Although it would appear that cats just groom to keep themselves clean, the reasons go far beyond what meets the eye. Cats groom their fur for a host of reasons that are each critical for their overall health. Let’s look at some of the primary reasons:
- Grooming helps to regulate body temperature.
- It helps to keep a feline’s coat clean and smooth. Constant cleaning helps to distribute natural oils evenly. Although greasy and oily fur (in abundance) is an issue, a soft and shiny coat requires a certain amount of natural oil.
- Circulation is stimulated during the grooming process. If you have ever watched your cat groom (in detail), you have seen that it can look like a workout. All of the movements involved serve to promote an increase in blood circulation and oxygenation.
- Saliva can act like a cold, wet towel on a hot day. The saliva that is released during the grooming process can soothe your cat’s skin as it begins to dry.
- Because cats are susceptible to allergies, infections, and parasites the grooming process can get rid of unwanted intruders. Cleaning the fur involves more than just getting rid of excess dirt and debris.
- Hairballs are part-and-parcel of being a cat. Daily grooming will help to get rid of furballs.
- Cats often groom when they have nothing better to do. Cats groom when they are bored, anxious, nervous, etc. Grooming, because it is so natural, can provide a calming release for cats.
Healthy and contented cats have regular grooming habits, but it can be difficult to determine what’s normal for a feline.
Is Greasy and Oily Fur Natural?
While some cats have more natural oil than others, the notion that greasy and oily fur is ‘normal’ is incorrect.
The visual and feel of a cat should be familiar to you. Whether long or short-haired, we all know what is right for our own feline friend. If your cat has hair that feels greasy and all but lays down when you rub it, something is clearly unnatural.
Two core reasons can tip you off to the presence of greasy and oily fur: compulsive grooming and under-grooming.
While compulsive grooming, in name only, would appear to be positive, it is not. Compulsive grooming can result in hair loss, matted hair, lesions, bleeding, etc. This behavior is often a sign of a medical ailment.
Possible medical issues include…
- Intense stress
- Separation anxiety
- Lack of attention
- Neurological issue
Aggressive or angry grooming can also develop. In this situation, your cat may pluck the hair out and self-harm. This is a serious situation that should never be ignored by a pet owner.
Signs of failed grooming include…
- Greasy, oily, and rough coat
- Matted hair (Typically in patches)
- Discoloration on the legs and paws (Often urine stains)
- Unnatural scent (Unclean)
- Food, dirt, debris, etc. caught in the fur
The concern over a lack of grooming can be quickly resolved in most cases, but first, you must receive a proper diagnosis. Your vet is best placed to explore the reasons and work with you to address the issue. No cat willingly chooses to look unwell and unkempt.
What are the Causes of Greasy and Clumpy Fur in Cats?
Physical limitations, pain, and skin conditions are the most common reasons that a cat’s fur would become greasy and clumpy.
The issue is usually a result of one of these problems…
- A cat is physically unable to reach specific areas due to excess weight
- The cat is experiencing joint discomfort
- Dental and mouth issues lead to pain
- Skin and other issues have caused the fur to become greasy and oily
Here are some ways to help an old cat to stay clean.
Mainly affecting adult and senior cats, felines can become so obese that grooming becomes a major task. If your cat is carrying too much weight, it can become tough for them to reach certain areas of the body.
With obesity also comes a lack of stamina. Grooming can become an impossible ‘workout’ if your cat is obese. The inability or lack of desire to continue the task can become an issue of its own.
In the same way that some obese humans have difficulty showering and bathing, the same health concerns can arise for your cat. Your cat’s oily and greasy hair could be the byproduct of being too fat.
Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University notes that obese felines are also at risk of experiencing anal gland and urinary tract issues. Because grooming involves very delicate areas, the inability to properly clean can introduce far more significant health concerns.
One of the most common issues that result in greasy, oily, clumpy, and matted fur is arthritis. When joints become stiff, swollen, and painful, the task can become harder. Over time, your cat could decide to neglect to groom entirely as a means of pain avoidance.
The introduction of joint remedies and supplements could yield positive results. Selections, such as Cosequin, can help your feline to improve his or her mobility.
While lethargy is rare among healthy cats, it is possible for your cat to lack the energy to groom. Free of medical issues, some cats neglect to groom out of laziness. They can be much like humans in that regard.
If your feline has stopped grooming entirely, it is vital for you to look for clues. The issue could be environmental rather than health-related. Your cat could be experiencing stress and anxiety due to subtle changes within your home.
Concerns such as gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth resorption can cause your cat to stop grooming. Because a cat depends on its tongue and teeth to achieve proper cleanliness, that task will be aborted if oral issues become too severe.
It is common for senior cats with greasy hair also to have dental concerns. In this regard, the two issues are directly connected.
With the help of your vet, your feline’s dental issues can be resolved. Once pain is eliminated, your cat will likely start grooming again.
Specific issues can lead to the lack of production of natural oils. This can cause fur to feel greasy, oily, rough, and matted.
Diabetes, as well as a condition known as seborrhea, are two of the most common concerns. Seborrhea can be caused by changes in diet, allergies, and the presence of parasites. This condition can also be genetic.
If your feline’s hair is laying flat, looks separated, and feels rough and greasy, it could be due to a dermatological condition. Cats that are young, groom properly, are of average weight, and do not have arthritis should NOT have clumpy and oily fur. Through a process of deduction, you can make a series of notes that will help your vet immensely.
Regarded as one of the most common diseases in felines, hyperthyroidism is a condition caused by an increased production of thyroid hormones. Middle-aged and senior cats are the most likely to be affected.
According to the Cornell University Feline Health Center, most thyroid issues of this nature are caused by a non-cancerous tumor. However, some rare cases are prompted by the development of a malignancy. While the cause of this condition is not known, it is believed that diet and environment can play a significant role.
Signs and symptoms include…
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Extreme thirst
- Urge to urinate more frequently
While not deemed as a primary symptom, Cornell notes that an unkempt and greasy coat may occur. The coat may also appear matted.
Your vet can diagnose hyperthyroidism through a series of detailed blood tests.
How Can You Treat Greasy Fur in Cats?
In most cases, greasy and oily fur can be treated from home once an accurate diagnosis has been made. If the cause is not related to a skin condition or disease, it is likely that natural grooming will resume once your feline’s pain has been relieved.
Concerns over obesity, arthritis, and dental issues can usually be overcome.
Before you can help your cat improve his or her coat, you must first understand the cause.
Nothing can be achieved until you know what is wrong. Treatment begins with a medical diagnosis.
Take the Grooming Reigns
If pain and obesity have been identified as the culprit, you can take over the grooming reigns until your feline is able.
By grooming your cat several times per week, you will be improving your cat’s appearance while also doing them a favor. There will be less discomfort if you are carrying the load for your friend.
Never underestimate the positive self-gratification your cat will have if you help them out. Cats can become depressed and begin to develop a negative self-image. If you groom your cat, it can give them a new sense of worth. That can be invaluable for an older feline.
- Slicker Brush
- Grooming Glove
A quality shampoo can help to clean your cat’s fur and eliminate excess oil and grease. Shampoo can also make your cat’s fur far less coarse and easier to manage. By default, this should undo tangled and matted fur and restore it to its natural texture and beauty.
Consult your vet or animal care specialist with regards to which selections are right for your feline. Long-haired cats require more work, so it is vital that you purchase the right products for the job.
Cat grooming wipes can be beneficial. Petting and rubbing your cat with wipes several times per week can eliminate dirt and debris buildup that your cat may be unable to remove on its own. Wipes can also kill any bacteria and get rid of unpleasant odors.
When selecting the best coat supplements for your cat, it is essential to focus more on quality and ingredients rather than product brand.
Listed below are some tips for selecting the right products…
- Consult with your vet. Treat your cat like you would treat your newborn baby. If medicines, foods, chemicals, etc. are involved you want the opinion of a professional.
- Read the labels. Some products are geared toward specific ages. Giving your senior feline a supplement that is meant for a younger cat may not be the right option. Make sure the product is designed for cats and not dogs.
- It is recommended that you buy coat supplements that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
While the use of supplements can be beneficial for your cat’s coat, the importance of a healthy diet is essential. Always make sure that your cat is consuming highly digestible proteins.
Too many treats, human food, and selections that do not have the proper carbohydrates, fatty acids, and minerals, can cause your feline’s fur to suffer. It will also reduce the chances of obesity and the early symptoms of arthritis.
How Can You Untangle Matted Cat Hair?
Combing and cutting (shaving) are the most common ways to untangle matted hair. Although tangled and matted fur is primarily issues of concern for long-haired cats, any breed can fall victim. This is true if all aspects of grooming have ceased.
Let’s explore some techniques for untangling and removing matted fur…
- Before you reach for the scissors, you should reach for a brush with long teeth or a wide-toothed comb. When dealing with thicker mats and tighter knots of hair, it is wise to make several attempts to comb them out.
- Once a mat or knot is has been defined, hold the fur from the base of the skin and slowly begin to brush or comb the area. You will be less likely to pull your cat’s delicate skin. Begin at the end of the matted area and work your way towards the tips. The ASPCA recommends using talcum powder on fur knots to ease them apart.
- If you are having limited success with a brush or comb, you may find results with a razor pick, commonly referred to as a mat splitter. A razor pick can allow you to cut through small patches of matted fur. This process is quite subtle so your cat will be less likely to become startled and afraid. Getting underneath (or behind) the mat is essential.
- The use of a traditional grooming razor is a guaranteed way to remove matted and clumped fur, but it is also the most dangerous. If you select this option is critical that you leave it to a professional. Attempting to shave a cat’s fur can result in healthy hair being accidentally shaven and the high risk of injury.
- The final option involves cutting away clumps with scissors. Lifting your cat’s hair away from the skin is paramount before performing short cutting strokes.
Important: Cut to loosen and do not cut to remove. Many times, even the tightest of mats require just a tiny bit of trimming. The hair will naturally loosen if only a small amount is trimmed. Use the scissors to loosen the knot and then comb out the rest.
How to Groom a Long-Haired Senior Cat
Grooming a long-haired cat takes time and effort. Starting with the right tools will make your job much more manageable and provide the best results.
Listed below are items that you should have at your disposal…
While these are the core items, you may also wish to purchase several metal combs with teeth as well as a mat splitter. Good for removing small knots and tangles, a mat splitter is perfect for long-haired senior cats that no longer have the flexibility to keep matted fur at bay.
Standard grooming guide…
- Brush your cat from head to toe. Use firm yet gentle strokes to create a natural line stroke. From the top of the head, down the back, and through the end of the tail. This is a traditional grooming technique.
- For belly grooming, place your cat on its side, firmly secure it, and brush from the neck and through to the belly. Lift each hind leg and gently brush accordingly.
- Begin the process over and brush against the grain. This can enable you to locate knots and comb through marginally matted areas.
Although these are the more common practices, they will differ depending on the uniqueness of your feline. As long as you make slight contact with the skin, brush in a firm yet gentle manner, and groom from head to toe. Minor hair concerns should be handled without issue.
In addition to having the proper tools and understanding the basic grooming techniques, setting a time and place for grooming is also crucial. If you develop a routine and make it fun for your cat, the process will be more like enjoyment rather than an arduous task.
Creating a grooming environment…
Feline dandruff is a common issue that affects cats of all breeds. Regarded as symptoms rather than a condition, dandruff can be successfully treated if the underlying cause is identified. Dandruff is primarily located on the face, back, and portions of the tail but it can arise anywhere on the body. Dandruff is naturally more apparent in cats who have darker coats. Symptoms include…
What are the Signs of Feline Dandruff?
Feline dandruff is a common issue that affects cats of all breeds. Regarded as symptoms rather than a condition, dandruff can be successfully treated if the underlying cause is identified.
Dandruff is primarily located on the face, back, and portions of the tail but it can arise anywhere on the body. Dandruff is naturally more apparent in cats who have darker coats.
What are the Causes?
The causes of dandruff can be wide-ranging and typically stem from one of several areas. Issues concerning nutrition, lack of hydration, allergies, disease, and parasites usually are to blame.
- Dandruff can be the byproduct of a poor diet. A lack of protein and essential fats can harm the skin.
- Dry skin can arise if your cat is not drinking enough water. Always supply your feline with fresh cool water and introduce it often. Placing water bowls around your home is one way to encourage your cat to drink more regularly.
- Skin reactions and food allergies can cause dandruff. From grooming products, chemicals, soaps, and dietary changes, allergies can negatively impact a cat’s sensitive skin.
- Diabetes and hyperthyroidism can harm your cat’s skin and coat. Dandruff, as well as greasy and oily fur, can be the result.
- Mites, fleas, ringworm, and fungal infections can cause serious health concerns. Dandruff is just one of many issues that can arise.
What Are the Treatment Options?
At the first visual sign of dandruff, you should seek expert assistance from your vet. It is critical to get a diagnosis and identify the cause. Assume nothing and leave the medical assessment to the trained professionals.
Common treatments may include…
Daily petting and weekly grooming will enable you to monitor changes to your cat’s fur more easily. This includes changes to the color of your cat’s fur. The longer you have cared for your cat, the easier it will be to identify anything that is out of the ordinary. If you have a senior cat and greasy fur has become the new normal, you should never chalk it up as under-grooming due to arthritis. While that could be the cause, the ailment could be a disease. This is why talking to your cat to the vet is so critical. Greasy and clumpy fur is not normal. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can assist in bringing your cat’s coat back to life.
Daily petting and weekly grooming will enable you to monitor changes to your cat’s fur more easily. This includes changes to the color of your cat’s fur. The longer you have cared for your cat, the easier it will be to identify anything that is out of the ordinary.
If you have a senior cat and greasy fur has become the new normal, you should never chalk it up as under-grooming due to arthritis. While that could be the cause, the ailment could be a disease. This is why talking to your cat to the vet is so critical.
Greasy and clumpy fur is not normal. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can assist in bringing your cat’s coat back to life.