Cats and Hairballs – The Ugly Truth
9 October, 2012

Every cat owner has had to deal with the not-so-fun issue of finding and handling hairballs.  However, the bigger problem is if your beloved kitty ingests a hairball, it can be dangerous if it becomes lodged in his or her intestine.  Below are some tips as to what causes hairballs and how to deal with them.

Where Do Hairballs In Cats Come From?

Hairballs, obviously, come from your cat’s fur.  We all know how much time our cats spend grooming their coats to perfection.  But keeping that coat beautiful sometimes comes with a price.

Anyone who has been licked by a cat knows how rough and sandpapery his or her tongue is.  This is because her tongue is covered with little hook-like protrusions that are meant to remove loose hair from her coat when she grooms herself.  This hair is swallowed and usually passes through her digestive system with no problems.

Sometimes a certain amount of hair stays in the stomach.  Eventually your sweet little friend will vomit it up, usually in the form of a long tube, and at least is getting it out of his or her system.

Are Some Cats More Susceptible To Developing Hairballs?

While every cat will probably develop a cat hairball at some time in her life, any long-haired feline such as a Maine Coon or Persian is more susceptible to this problem.  This makes sense, as they have a lot more fur to groom and more of it will end up in their stomachs.

You may notice that your feline friend has more hairballs as he or she gets older.  This is a normal development.  As cats mature, they get better at grooming themselves and swallow more fur, which leads to more hairballs.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Has A Hairball?

It’s usually pretty obvious.  Your sweet little feline will hack, cough, gag, and eventually vomit it up…lovely!

However, if you notice the following hairball symptoms, the hairball may have blocked your pet’s intestines:

1.         Hacking, gagging, and/or vomiting without being able to cough up a hairball

2.         Constipation or diarrhea

3.         No appetite

4.         Lethargic

How to Prevent Hairballs In Cats

You can’t prevent hairballs completely, but you can take steps to reduce their numbers by doing the following:

Groom your kitty every day, especially if she has long hair.

If you can get the fur off her before he or she swallows it, you can prevent many problems with haiballs. 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 used to grooming or 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.

Feed your cat a specialized “hairball formula” cat food.

Many pet stores sell 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.

Distract your cat if he or she grooms too much

If you think that your cat’s hairballs are a result of his or her compulsive grooming, try to train your cat to do another enjoyable activity instead of licking his coat. This might include teaching him or her to play with a new toy on his own or finding a fun toy you can play with together.

Good luck with the hairballs and I hope they stay to a minimum!  

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