How to Remove Knots and Tangles from Long Cat Fur

Last Updated on April 13, 2020

If you have a cat who has long hair and do not take the time to brush it, you may end up with a cat who has knots and tangles that are tight to the skin. When these knots become so tight, they will actually cause bleeding, balding, and infections! The best course of action is prevention by bathing and brushing your cat often. What if it is too late? Here are some simple tips for removing knots, mangles, and tangles from your cat’s fur!

Step One: Bathe Them

This may sound scary but it has to be done. Most cats will tolerate a 10 minute (or less) bath so long as they trust you. I have given every cat I have owned and also friend’s cats baths as well. It helps to go into this prepared. If you have a cat who has never had a bath, wear a long sleeve shirt that is thick. This is more for your protection than your cat’s! I always use the bathtub in the bathroom. Fill the tub up to about 6 inches of warm water. Never use hot or cold. Test it with your elbow just like you do for a baby. DO NOT have your cat in the bathroom when filling the tub. 

Once the bath is ready, do not hesitate when putting your cat in the water because it will allow them time to cling to you. Once they are in, they will either scramble or cry or both. In my experience with cats who do not like the bath at all, it helps to allow them to have their front paws on the side of the tub facing the wall. This way they don’t feel like they are in danger and it makes it easier to clean them. Always use a shampoo that is moisturizing and lavender-scented. The lavender scent will not only repel bugs but it will help calm the cat during bath time. I use J&J Bedtime Bath for babies. It is tear-free and sensitive enough for their skin. Most baby shampoos are safe but if you prefer a pet shampoo, be sure it has a good moisturizer in it, it is tear-free and has lavender in it.

Step Two: Towel, Brush, & Trim

This may be even more difficult for some than a bath would be! I am not going to sugar coat it. If your cat’s knots are so bad that they are painful, this will not be a fun experience for either of you. You want to gently towel them off so they are not dripping wet. Be sure to do this in a comfortable room that is warm. You will need to use a human comb as well as a cat brush for their hair. Start by brushing through it with the cat brush as much as you can being gentle. This will remove any of the small knots. Next, take the comb and go through the hair again to find out where the large, deep knots are. Being very gentle, you will want to cut the knots just above the skin. Be very careful NOT to cut the skin. Only cut the knots that cannot be brushed out. Yes, this will mean your kitty will have bald patches but it is better than an infection. You may need to spend a good hour brushing, combing, and trimming the fur before it is knot-free. 

Once you have the area clean and mangle free, take a small amount of Shea butter (one that is paraben-free! – I use Alba Botanica’s) and rub it onto the skin and into the fur. This will keep other knots from forming and help relieve dry skin. If there are any scabs or open cuts, use coconut oil instead. If you notice dander after their bath as well, the lotion/oil will get rid of that. By the time you are done, the fur should be nearly dry so just do another towel-off and allow your cat to take over.

Step Three: Double Check

After your cat has had time to groom and maybe catch a nap, take the brush and go over the coat once more. If you notice any more knots, brush them out or trim them. Once you know you got them all, take a big “sigh” of relief and kick yourself for letting your cat’s hair get so bad! I am joking, but in all seriousness, you need to keep up with grooming. Knots should never get so bad that they have to be cut out. If another cat is causing them, consider getting more toys or scratching areas so your other cat is stimulated more.

Side Notes

If you can not bathe and trim your cat yourself, take it to a groomer. Once the fur is in order managing it will be easier. You will want to brush the fur our completely at least 3 times a week. I give my cats (which have short hair) a bath 3 or 4 times a year. For long hair cats, consider doing baths every 2 to 3 months. They may hate the initial bath but after it is over, trust me, 95% of cats appreciate it. I have experience with bathing cats of both sexes, all temperaments, and ages. If you need help, please do not hesitate to ask me anything in the comment section below. Also, if I did not cover anything, let me know! And yes, most of these cats I have bathed had all claws intact. All but one!

As mentioned above…

  • Always opt for a lavender-scented shampoo with moisturizer
  • Never use hot or cold water to bathe your cat
  • Never bathe your cat and put them in a cool or cold room
  • Prevention is key to avoiding knots and mangles
  • Weekly brushing is a must
  • Bathing every 2-3 months is ideal for long hair cats

Once your cat gets used to getting bathed on a regular basis, it will become easier and they will start to enjoy it. While they might not enjoy the process of being wet, they will enjoy how it feels afterward. Many of them will even purr!

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8 thoughts on “How to Remove Knots and Tangles from Long Cat Fur”

  1. Thank you for the instructions. I will give it a try on the weekend. Do you have any specific recommendations on brushes. I have a long hair catted who is in and out. She gets into long grass and comes home with burrs. She is not too happy with me trying to cut them out. I only get a few minutes at a time. I am new to having a cat!

    • Thanks for your comment, Ada. The brushes we recommend are by Catit, you can read the review here: They have both a long and short hair grooming kit so make sure to get the long hair one if you decide this is a good option for you. It may be helpful to keep her hair trimmed but never short. Since you allow her to go outdoors, that hair is protecting her from a lot of dangers (animal bites, ticks, etc.). You can focus on areas where the grass and other bits get stuck in her fur and just keep it trimmed down a bit. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or she won’t allow it, you can try a groomer or vet.

  2. Thanks for your quick response. All great options, unfortunately his weight issue is not going to change due to his meds. I can actually do the buzz to get him back under control myself. Thanks again.

    • Oh, I meant giving him coconut oil. Since he is overweight, you will have to run that by a vet before giving it to him as it is high in fat.

  3. I have a once feral cat that is now house bound due to some health issues. He is a biter by habit, he was a loner when outside, and weighs in at 19.1lbs. he is a very big cat in stature, just a little overweight due to his prednisone. He is a one year clean cancer survivor and 12yrs old. he has become complacent in his grooming and has now developed flaking skin and knots on his hind quarters. As a result he no longer allows me to brush him and nips at me when I try. I do catch him on the off moments and snip out the knots I can get to quickly. What suggestions if any do you have.

    • Thanks for your comment, Patti. Unfortunately, cutting them out is the only solution. If he is otherwise healthy, it might be worth taking him to a vet to get him put under and have a vet remove all the knots for you so you can better manage his hair. His hair can also be buzzed down a bit to prevent knots from coming back. You can look into supplemental options for him to improve his hair quality as well. Coconut oil is a good option that will improve his skin and hair quality to help reduce knotting but not all cats enjoy eating this. Also, you mentioned he is overweight as well so this is something you would have to inquire about with a vet.

  4. My cat is 18 and has stopped grooming himself if he sees me pick up the brush he walks away as I am disabled he knows I cannot follow him I try to brush him every night because he knots up easily it’s a shame because he is a lovely cat he’s not a long haired cat But his coat is vey thick.

    • Thanks for your comment S Boyle, and sorry to hear that. Cats can be rather stubborn, especially in old age. It might help to use cat-safe wet wipes to at least keep his fur clean for him. If he allows you to use them, wiping him down every few days might help with some of the knots and might help encourage him to do a bit of grooming himself.


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