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What is Fecal Mat?

Fecal mat is easily observable, and can be removed simply. However, if you notice additional symptoms, such as straining during defecation or scooting on the floor, your cat could be suffering from complications associated with untreated fecal mat.

Cats with long hair or who are suffering from diarrhea may develop fecal mat, which occurs when fecal matter gets stuck in the hair around the anus. Besides being unsanitary, fecal mat can lead to serious complications if it begins to block the anus opening and prevent the cat from defecating. It’s possible that infections, maggot infestations, and skin irritation can occur if fecal mat is left untreated.

Symptoms of Fecal Mat in Cats

Cats with long hair are at a higher risk of suffering from fecal mat, especially if they have recently had diarrhea. The condition occurs when fecal matter becomes stuck in the hair around the cat’s anus. Some of the symptoms you may notice besides matted hair include:

  • Straining during defecation
  • Scooting anus on the floor
  • Strange odor

Causes of Fecal Mat in Cats

Cats with hair around their anus are at risk of developing fecal mat after defecating. Diarrhea can also cause fecal mat because the fecal matter is usually softer, thus it tends to stick to the cat more than firmer fecal matter. If fecal matter becomes stuck in the cat’s hair and is not removed, it will quickly become matted. 

Diagnosis of Fecal Mat in Cats

If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, take your cat into a veterinarian as soon as possible. Although you may be able to tell what the issue is on your own, you will still need a veterinarian to examine your cat to determine if the fecal mat has led to any complications.

The vet should be able to quickly diagnose the problem after completing a physical examination. However, the vet may need to perform tests to determine if the fecal mat has caused other issues. A stool sample may be taken to look for parasites or maggots, which can begin to breed in fecal mat if left untreated for a long period of time. He may also need to examine the skin underneath the fecal mat to check for signs of irritation, which often occurs in this situation. 

In extreme situations, cats will stop eating or begin vomiting after developing fecal mat around their anus. When this occurs, cats can become dehydrated. Be sure to mention to your vet whether your cat has seemed sluggish or uninterested in food. If so, the vet may need to perform a blood chemistry profile to look for signs of an electrolyte imbalance.

Treatment of Fecal Mat in Cats

The first treatment goal is to remove the fecal mat by cutting off the affected hair or shaving the entire area. The vet will thoroughly wash your cat to remove any bacteria or fecal matter that may still be stuck to the skin after the fecal mat has been removed.

After removing the fecal mat, treatment will depend on whether there were any complications caused by the matted hair. Parasites will need to be treated with oral medication. The cat’s hair may also need to be thoroughly washed with special shampoos to remove parasites that may be hiding in fur.

If maggots are spotted within the area, the vet will most likely manually remove these with a sterilized tweezers. The infected area may be treated with both topical ointments and antibiotics administered orally. Even if there is no infection, skin irritation can also be treated with topical ointments.

If dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance is detected, your cat may need to receive IV fluids that will help him regain his strength. 

Your cat may have also been holding in his feces because of the blockage caused by the fecal mat. If this is the case, the vet may administer a stool softener or laxative so the cat releases the feces.

Recovery of Fecal Mat in Cats

Cats will almost always recover fully from fecal mat and the associated complications. However, it is up to you to prevent fecal mat from occurring again. Keep your cat properly groomed so there is no long hair around the anus. If you don’t get your cat professionally groomed, you can carefully trim the hair around his anus with a small pair of scissors.

Check your cat’s anus frequently to look for signs of fecal mat. If you spot matted hair, put your cat in a warm bath to loosen the matted hair and remove the feces. 

You should also ensure your cat’s litter box is always kept clean. If the litter box is dirty, the cat may try to squeeze into a small corner to defecate, and thus push feces into his hair.