Having cats and dogs residing with me, I'm also way too familiar with chasing after the floating phrunes and wrangling with animals to hold still "just a bit longer" in my often futile attempts to brush/comb/detangle their coats. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it. I've been through the myriad of products out there, promising to make light and quick of the deshedding process, ending up mostly disappointed or frustrated with the results.
There are two products which work absolute wonders, though. I personally recommend either one.
The Furminator, which comes in different sizes, works by removing the cat's undercoat that has already released from the follicle. It doesn't cut, nor "thin", the fur - it simply is a tool that has great results in removing the extra fur sitting "just under the surface". That fur is often what ends up floating around my floors (and in my cup of coffee). By removing the excess fur, it also greatly reduces the chances of a matt forming. Anyone with long-haired cats knows the nightmare of matts. It comes in various sizes, sure to custom-fit your cat and your preference.
Second to the Furminator, there is a product known as a deshedding blade tool. There are several different manufacturers of these, and they also come in various sizes. The one I use (purchased from pet store) is double edged; one side works more as a comb, the other has deeper teeth that work wonderfully for pulling away all the loosened, but not yet dropped, hairs. Mine even detaches on the handle end, to cover a large area at once. I have only found these for dogs, although I must admit I've used a small-sized one on my cats and it worked great. The point is to use a tool that will successfully, cleanly, and quickly remove all the excess hair before Fido or Fluffy get antsy.
For either of these tools, there is an added bonus - it apparently feels sooo good to them, they'll sit and wait while you do the deshedding. No wrangling. That goes for the cats. And it goes for Chester, who has canine ADHD to put it mildly.
Now, either of these products, or any for that matter, only work if you keep up with the brushing/combing/deshedding. Get lazy or distracted, let it go for a bit, and you're looking at a pet who's got lumps and bumps that aren't pretty or comfortable. Matts can end up causing skin infections, not to mention they harbor dirt and germs (and eek! bugs), so you want to remove them as quickly as possible. One shortcut is to arm yourself with scissors and snip away. It works, kinda. But it's not the safest method, nor is it the best. If you're looking at matts, you're best to work your way through them with a comb, starting from the ends and working toward the roots. Matts are merely tangled clumps of shed hair - tangled into hair that's attached - so if you can separate it, you can remove the excess. If you have a bad case of matts, or are unable to get them out without causing you or your pet sheer agony, you're best to either take the clippers and give them a mohawk, or head to your nearest groomer. Groomer is the safer bet.
Having said all this, I have a question. What is with this summer? I first heard from a friend with several cats, who complained that they were all developing matts all over, even the cats who normally don't. Then I started noticing them on mine. Even ones who normally never have any matting. And Chester, of course, is working on a new carpet for our house.
This summer for some reason has presented as an exceptional challenge - and I'm searching to find the reason behind it, but my pets have been manufacturing fur at a rate that would astound zoos. Yes, we've had very warm temps, and lots of rain. Could the weather be the reason? I really want to know why. I have kids complaining about "furry toast" (Chandler loves to perch himself on the toaster), and our clothes are hopelessly covered in hairs when we leave the house. When you go to the DMV and are standing in line for a license renewal, and another person in line asks you what kind of pets you have (you haven't had any conversation with this stranger) - you know you have a hairy issue.
In the meantime, I'm keeping very busy deshedding.