Has your cat been retching and hacking? If so, he may be suffering from hairballs. If you see disgusting, oval-like blobs on the floor, your cat has managed to dislodge one of his hairballs. Since cats are notorious for keeping themselves clean and spending hours daily grooming their coats, they tend to ingest large amounts of their own hair. This can complicate their digestion, causing hairballs and destroying rugs in the process. No matter what, you are not alone in the battle of the hairball. Lets look at some causes, prevention and treatments for hairballs in cats.
What Are Hairballs ?
A hairball is a mass of hair and/or food that did not digest and forms inside a cat’s body. Loose hair often collects on your cats tongue when he grooms himself and the hair comes together to form a ball in his stomach, instead of passing through his body. Since these hairballs aren’t able to break down and be digested, cats often cough them up to get rid of them.
A cat’s gut is designed to process fur, its own as well as the fur attached to prey animals, which is why hairballs should not be an ongoing issue. Hairballs are often seen as a result of increased grooming due to issues like skin problems, anxiety or seasonal changes like shedding.
Of course long haired cats, like the Persian and Maine Coon, are more likely to suffer from hairballs because they have more hair than short haired kitties. Some cats just instinctively groom more often than others as well, which makes them more likely to suffer hairballs.
While most cats don’t have a problem with dislodging hairballs, they can occasionally pass into a cat’s intestines and cause a blockage. This can be a life threatening problem. There are a few signs to watch out for in determining if your cat’s hairball is dangerous. If your cat seems to be constipated or struggling to “go”, he may be experiencing a small blockage. If he seems lethargic and his coat is dull looking, or he is eating less than usual, then he may have a serious blockage. Either way, you should take him to your veterinarian to be sure a hairball is the problem and to have it removed.
The most common symptoms of hairballs in cats are:
- Retching or hacking
- Vomiting up hairballs and food
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen abdomen
Prevention & Treatment
Of course, it is much better to prevent hairballs than to treat them after they have formed. One of the easiest ways to keep your cat from developing a hairball is to groom him frequently, especially if he has long hair. Thoroughly comb or brush his hair each day to remove excess hair. If you begin this routine when he is a kitten, he will actually look forward to being groomed. If your cat doesn’t care for brushes and combs, try a grooming glove like the the Grooming Glove which enables you to lift away cat hair with soothing strokes while wearing it on your hand. Otherwise the silicone FurBliss brush is great for massaging, removing tangles and bringing out the shine of your cat’s coat.
If your cat still seems to form occasional hairballs, there are several dietary aids that you may want to try. One is dry cat food that was developed to help prevent hairballs. Be sure that it is high in protein and fiber, as well. Most of these foods feature a high fiber because it helps keeps the gastrointestinal tract moving normally. If your cat already has a hairball, you may want to shop for a gel that can be added to his food that will help the hairball pass through his body. This gel is actually a lubricant and a laxative, flavored to make them palatable for your cat. coat the swallowed hair and stool, allowing it to pass through your cat’s digestive system. Tomlyn Laxatone is a safe choice in treating and preventing hairballs in cats.
There are many high rated hairball control cat foods that are designed to reduce hairballs in cats. These high fiber formulas help reduce the amount of shedding and improve the health of your cat’s skin. Hairball formula food also helps your cat pass ingested hairs before he form hairballs.
Nothing is more important to your cat’s digestion than fresh, clean water. To optimize water intake consider a fountain that continuously recirculates water at the flow rate you set. Cat grass is another preventative option that grows fast and is easy to care for. It costs very little, and provides a renewable resource of enjoyment for your cat. Try a Cat Grass growing kit that is not only organic but also a source of fiber, to aid in preventing hairballs for your indoor cat.
While many cats hack up the occasional hairball, it should not be a common event. If your cat is vomiting frequently with or without hair, there may be some other health problem going on and your cat should see the veterinarian. Finally, some people have their own remedies and recipes for removing hairballs. Before considering folk remedies to treat your cat, please consult with your veterinarian to learn more about hairballs and to insure you are not causing harm to your cat’s body.