Yuck! Is there anything more disgusting than stepping into a wet, hairy surprise?
What causes hairballs in cats?
Hairballs (trichobezoars) are normal and to be expected, especially at the times of the year that shedding becomes heavier. When cats groom themselves, they swallow any dead, loose hair. The hair, passes through the digestive tract and normally comes out in the stool. Your cat’s gut is designed to handle fur, both its own and the fur attached to its prey. But, when too much hair collects in the stomach, it irritates the stomach lining and is likely to come back up.
When to be concerned
An occasional hairball is no cause for concern, but if your cat is vomiting up a hairball more than once or twice a month, it’s time to take action. If you have not been to the vet lately, you’ll start with a check-up to make sure there is no more serious problem. You must be very cautious if you hear that hacking cough but no hairballs appear. This might be a sign of feline asthma. Also, persistent vomiting of any kind might be the sign of something more serious.
Prevention of hairballs
The easiest way to provent hairballs is to comb your cat frequently. Brushing tends to slide over the surface of the fur and won’t get out all the dead hair. Eveno shorthaired cats need to be combed. Use a fine comb on shorthaired cats and a shedding comb on longhaired cats. A shedding comb has two lengths of tines to get both the top coat and bottom coat at the same time.
Many cats try to take care of hairballs by eating grass or plants. Grass is a natural laxative that cats seek out when they have an upset stomach. Their instinct to go to the grass may save you a trip to the vet. When your cat eats grass, it helps them to regurgitate. But, not all of it comes back up. The juices in the grass contain folic acid, which is a vitamin that is essential for kitty’s health. It’s as good for them as greens are for us. SEE MORE ON GRASS
Treatment for hairballs
You can help prevent hairballs by adding fiber to the diet. There are many hairball formula foods available and you should check with your vet to choose one that works for your cats age and general health. You can also consider adding essential fatty acids to kitty’s diet. Alaskan salmon oil is a popular choice, but check with your vet on how much to use.
When there is already a hairball problem, you will need to use a lubricant or laxative. There are many different types available at your local pet store. You may use plain old Vaseline, but your cat may prefer a commercial brand with a better flavor. The easiest way to squeeze about an inch of hairball formula on your finger and then dab it quickly on your cat’s front paws. They might be annoyed, but will lick it off completely. Follow directions, which probably means applying once a day for several days.
As with most health problems, prevention is always the best remedy. So, keep a comb close by and spend a few minutes every day bonding with your feline friend. If you start early in your kitty’s life, it will lower your blood pressure while helping create a closer bond.