Yes, your cat needs grooming.
Cats have hair and skin which is constantly in a cycle of shedding and renewal. Cats have very delicate skin and hair, about 1/4 the thickness in epidermis and hair follicle compared to our own human skin and hair. They are 30% more absorbent of chemicals, pollutants, dirt, etc. in their environment than we are. So why do we still believe erroneously that cats are self-cleaning?
Oh yes, they wash themselves. But lets look at this accepted "norm" with fresh eyes and common sense. They wash with spit to disguise their scent from larger predators. Their saliva contains a multitude of bacteria, AND 5 known allergens. This is why cat allergies are more common than dog allergies; you get a double whammy of dander (dead skin) and saliva.
Cats are also very greasy, more so than dogs, as they have an oil gland located along the top of the tail about two inches from the base of the tail. This is a hormonally driven pomade factory. In nature, the build-up of this pomade would be kept in check by swimming, rainfall and moisture from underbrush. For the indoor cat, the oil just keeps building up, creating a greasy coat that dirt and loose hair sticks to creating mats.
If you happen to own a ultra shorthaired cat, that is fit and young, you may not need to bathe your room-mate too often. But if your cat is overweight, long-haired or plush short-haired, has medical issues, or elderly, your cat and you will greatly benefit from a regular grooming schedule. A clean cat feels soft and smooth to the touch. Lumpy/chucky hair with peaks and valleys that separates into strands means your cat is in need of assistance. Mats are a definite sign of a problem that needs addressing as they will not disappear without intervention, and can be prevented by regular grooming.
The benefits of regular grooming include controlled shedding, reduced hairballs, less destruction from scratching, controlled dandruff, less cling-ons from the litter box, clean face and ears, and a pleasantly fresh room-mate who is much happier and affectionate from simply being clean. Cats are very narcissistic creatures!
Below I've posted a few photos of regular cats with different grooming issues. You'll see that it is both short and long haired, because yes, shorthaired cats do need grooming too. All these cats are indoor cats, and none of these cats are an extreme example of neglect. Rather they are cats whose owners needed some guidance as to the maintenance and long term care required to keep their companions in healthy condition.
After browsing the photos below, take a look at your cat with fresh eyes, and ask yourself, "Does my cat need grooming?"
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Janet Wormitt, CFMG CFCG
Cat-a-lyst and Ad-vo-CATe