how to unmat cat fur at home
Cat Health and Wellness

Why Does My Cat’s Fur Look Greasy and Clumpy?

Cats are meticulous groomers, so it will be obvious when a cat’s fur becomes oily and starts clumping together. There will be a good reason why your cat has allowed her fur to become unclean.

Why does my cat’s fur look greasy and clumpy? Cats usually stop cleaning their fur due to a physical limitation. Overweight or arthritic cats struggle to contort their bodies sufficiently for grooming. Cats with dental issues will avoid biting and licking due to pain and discomfort. Also, feline diabetes and hyperthyroidism are linked to a listless, dirty, and clumpy coat. And cat allergies can lead to dandruff-like symptoms.

We’ll explore the many different reasons for greasy fur in cats, and how to treat these conditions. Whether the problem is medical or psychological, your pet needs your assistance with the issue. A cat will never allow her fur to become unkempt and unclean without a genuinely good reason.

Causes of Greasy and Clumpy Fur in Cats

Greasy fur is often due to a physical issue. If your cat is unable to groom herself, then her fur will start to look dull, dry, and scruffy. And every time that you pick up or stroke your cat, you’ll leave oils and dirt on her fur. If she cannot clean these off, her coat will start to lose its natural vibrancy.

The most common physical ailments that prevent cats from grooming themselves include:

  • Obesity. Heavy cats lack the dexterity needed to clean those difficult-to-reach spots.
  • Arthritis. As your cat grows older, your cat’s joints become increasingly painful.
  • Dental Pain. If your cat is having teeth problems, she’ll be reluctant to use her mouth.

However, there could be a medical explanation for your cat’s greasy fur. Possibilities include:

  • Allergies and skin conditions. Allergies can cause damage to the skin and fur. The irritation then leads to your cat biting and chewing her fur, causing further harm.
  • Hyperthyroidism. Older cats may struggle with an overactive thyroid, and greasy fur is a common symptom of this medical condition.
  • Diabetes. Often linked to obesity, feline diabetes causes sudden changes to a cat’s fur.
  • Poor diet. If your cat is not receiving the right nutrition, her skin and fur will deteriorate.
  • Depression. A depressed cat will be withdrawn and lethargic, losing all interest in grooming.

1) Obesity

An overweight cat will always struggle to reach certain parts of her body due to a sudden loss of flexibility and mobility. A large stomach prevents your cat from bending in all necessary directions.

Carrying additional weight will also have a severe impact on your cat’s stamina. Grooming and maintaining a clean coat is like a cardio workout for a feline. She may just give up due to fatigue.

An overweight cat will also struggle to clean her anal glands and urinary tract glands. This can leave her open to painful viral infections. Getting your pet on a weight-loss plan is absolutely vital as it will inevitably start to affect other aspects of her health and lifestyle.

2) Arthritis

Arthritis commonly affects felines that are over the age of 12. Different forms of arthritis and joint problems will adversely affect your cat’s mobility and physical ability to groom.

Arthritis will make the process extremely painful, or impossible, to carry out. Consequently, some older cats will abandon grooming entirely to avoid the associated discomfort.

cat pulling clumps of fur out with its teeth

Has your senior cat lost interest in grooming? Is she moving less fluidly than usual? If so, she most likely has a painful joint condition that’s causing symptoms, such as stiff back legs.

Although arthritis cannot be cured, the condition can be ‘managed.’ A combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and supplements can control the advancement of the disease.

With support, your cat will become more flexible and may start grooming herself again. Assist your cat with her grooming to make the process as easy as possible.

3) Dental Pain

If your cat has dental pain, she’ll be reluctant to do anything with her mouth. This will mean that grooming is out of the question, as well as eating most forms of food.

Have you noticed that your cat is eating less than was previously the case? Has your cat been drooling or pawing at her face? If so, tooth pain (bad teeth or gums) is likely to be the explanation.

4) Allergies

If your cat has an allergy, it will affect her skin and fur. Hives and hotspots are commonly seen in feline allergic reactions. These cause irritation, leading to biting and scratching at the skin/fur.

Seborrhea occurs when the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum. The result will be clumpy, matted fur. It looks a lot like dandruff on your cat’s skin. Treatment will be a prescription shampoo.

5) Hyperthyroidism

An overactive thyroid affects many senior cats. Hyperthyroidism is caused by one of your cat’s two thyroid glands becoming enlarged. If the condition is identified early, it can be reversed.

As International Cat Care explains, hyperthyroidism has some very distinct symptoms. In addition to a greasy, unsightly coat, your cat will constantly eat yet lose weight. Your pet will also drink more water and pace erratically.

Hyperthyroidism sees your cat burning energy faster than it can be replaced. This is why she’ll eat to excess, but still lose weight. Your cat’s heart will struggle to cope, so early treatment is essential.

6) Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes occurs when your cat’s body isn’t producing enough insulin to balance out glucose levels. If your cat is drinking and urinating excessively, diabetes is more likely to be a problem.

A vet will take a urine sample and test for signs of glucose. The presence of this substance in your cat’s urine is a strong indication that your cat’s body isn’t absorbing glucose.

Treatment is ongoing. It usually involves insulin injections to the scruff of the neck twice per day. Your cat will also go on a specialist diet and need to exercise more often to manage the condition.

7) Poor Diet

A cat must receive all the nutrients and protein she needs from her food. This means that a high-quality diet, tailored to your cat’s age group, is absolutely essential.

Cats can be fussy about food. A professional will draw up a diet plan. Senior cats have very different nutritional needs to kittens due to physical growth and the level of energy that they expend.

Check the ingredients of whatever you feed your cat. The food should contain quality protein and very little filler. The right diet goes a long way to keeping cats happy and healthy. A shabby fur coat that lacks gloss is the first warning sign of low-quality nutrition.

Why is my cat's fur greasy looking?

8) Depression

A change in routine can cause depression, especially if your cat feels ignored or neglected. One of the most common explanations is a death in the family. As Petful explains, cats mourn the loss of feline companions and cherished humans alike.

Feline depression does not involve the same chemical imbalance as the human condition. It does, however, manifest in many of the same ways. A depressed feline will withdraw from all interaction and lose interest in basic activities. This could include eating, interacting, and grooming.

Interact with your cat and ensure that she receives enough mental and physical stimulation.

How to Clean a Cat’s Greasy Fur

Greasy fur will always be a side effect of an underlying medical or physical condition. This means that you’ll need to treat the cause and not just the obvious visible symptoms.

If your cat is struggling to groom herself, you should lend a hand. Spend 10-15 minutes a day brushing her fur with a wide-toothed comb. Give your cat a clean with baby wipes once a day.

If your cat is dirty, get her into the kitchen sink for a bath. Speak to a vet first if your cat is unwell. Use a specialist feline shampoo, not a human shampoo, as it has the wrong ph levels for cats. You should then dry her off thoroughly using a soft and absorbent towel.

Scrutinize your cat’s current lifestyle. Get her into a strict exercise routine and play with her more often. Check her food to ensure that she’s getting the optimal nutrition based on her age. Consider supplements, or even a body massage, to ease her aching and arthritic joints (if applicable).