Nonwoven fibrous matrices have been widely used in cell and tissue cultures because their three-dimensional (3-D) structures with large surface areas and pore spaces can support high-density cell growth. Although cell adherence and growth on 2-D surfaces have been thoroughly investigated, very little is known for cells cultured in 3-D matrices. The effects of mixing intensity on cell seeding, adherence, and growth in fibrous matrices were thus investigated. Chinese Hamster Ovary and osteosarcoma cells were inoculated into nonwoven polyethylene terephthalate matrices by dynamic and static seeding methods, of which the former was found to be superior in seeding efficiency and cell distribution in the matrices. Dynamic seeding increased seeding efficiency from ∼40% to more than 90%. When higher mixing intensities were applied, both cell attachment and detachment rates increased. Cell attachment was transport limited, as indicated by the increased attachment rate with increasing the mass transfer coefficient of the cells. Meanwhile, cell detachment from the 3-D matrix can be described by the Bell model. The effects of matrix pore size on cell adherence and proliferation were also investigated. In general, the smaller pore size is favorable to cell attachment and proliferation. Further analysis revealed that the interaction between mixing intensity and pore size played a vital role in hydrodynamic damage to cells, which was found to be significant when the Kolomogorov eddy size was smaller than the matrix pores. Increasing mixing intensity also increased oxygen transfer, decreased the lactate yield from glucose, and improved cell growth. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2007;96: 371–380. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.