How to Minimize Hairballs in Our Cats
24 November, 2014
We love how our cats keep themselves clean on a daily basis by grooming themselves. There is nothing better than a clean cat and their self-grooming helps us from having to bathe them (which most cats hate!). However, one side effect of grooming is that our cat can and do develop hairballs. Some cats are more prone to it than others, especially those with a lot of long fur, and it’s uncomfortable for them and yucky for us owners.
What causes Hairballs to develop in our cats?
When your cat grooms himself, tiny hook-like structures on his tongue catch loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of this hair passes all the way through the digestive tract with no problems. But if some hair stays in the stomach, it can form a hairball. Ultimately, your cat will vomit the hairball to get rid of it. Because hairballs pass through the narrow esophagus on the way out, they often appear thin, rather than round.
Hairballs are much more common in long-haired cats
Hairballs in cats are more likely to appear in long-haired breeds, such as Persians and Maine Coons. Cats that shed a lot or who groom themselves compulsively are also more likely to have hairballs, because they tend to swallow a lot of fur. You may have noticed that your cat didn’t have hairballs as a kitten, but developed them as she grew. As cats get older they become more adept groomers and therefore more proficient at removing fur from their coats with their tongues, which means more hairballs for you to clean up. And, of course, their hair is longer and fully grown after kittenhood.
Symptoms of Hairballs in Cats
We hate and feel so sorry for our cats when we see or hear them eliminating a hairball. Some common hairball symptoms include hacking, gagging, and retching. Usually, your cat will then vomit the hairball shortly after and leave you a little not-so-lovely gift on your carpet.
If you notice the following hairball symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian, as they could indicate that a hairball has caused a potentially life-threatening blockage:
1. Ongoing vomiting, gagging, retching, or hacking without producing a hairball
2. Lack of appetite
4. Constipation or conversely diarrhea.
Below are some recommendations to help minimize the frequency of hairballs:
Groom your cat regularly
The more fur you remove from your kitty, the less fur that will end up as hairballs in her stomach. Combing or brushing your cat on a daily basis can be an effective way to minimize hairballs, and it can also provide a fun way for you to bond with your cat. If you can’t get your cat accustomed to brushing, think about taking her to a professional groomer for a grooming and hair cut (especially for long-haired cats) every six months or so.
Give your cat a specialized “hairball formula” cat food.
Many pet food manufacturers now make hairball-reduction cat foods. These high-fiber formulas are designed to improve the health of your cat’s coat, minimize the amount of shedding, and encourage hairballs in cats to pass through the digestive system.
Use a hairball product
There are a number of different hairball products on the market today, most of which are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass through the digestive tract. Your veterinarian can always recommend one for you.
Discourage excessive grooming
If you think that your cat’s hairballs are a result of compulsive grooming, try to train your cat to do another enjoyable activity instead of licking his coat. This might include teaching him to play with a new toy on his own or finding a fun toy you can play with together.
Healthy, home remedies
Try adding a little canned pumpkin to a cat’s meals once or twice a week. If hair has been ingested, the fiber in the pumpkin can help move any hairballs through the cat’s system.
Or if your cat does not like the taste of pumpkin, try apple cider vinegar which is a natural lubricant. You can put a tablespoon each day in your cat’s food and it helps promote digestion.
Stay active and healthy
Many of our cats are considered obese or overweight by their veterinarians. Play and interactive toys encourage cats to leap, stretch and stay active. Keeping a cat active helps him maintain a healthy skin and coat and increases balance and coordination.
While some cats are simply prone to hairballs, if you follow the above tips, the hairballs will at least be minimized. And, as always, if your cat does not spit up the hairball, call your vet immediately.