Hairballs

by: Jennifer Oldfield

April 29 Hairball Awareness

April 29th is Hairball Awareness Day

If you own a cat then you are likely familiar with having to clean up a hairball ot two, but did you know it isn’t normal for your cat to vomit up hairballs?  Cats groom themselves, naturally ingesting fur, dust, dander, and other debris to keep clean.  Their system is designed to take this ingestion of hair, digest it and expel it in their bowel movements.  At least this is the case for short-haired cats.  Cats with longer coats or multiple cat households where they groom each other, aren’t as well equipped to deal with the excess of hair.  So what can you do to help and when should you see a vet?

How to help:

  • hairball blogBrushing – For cats with longer hair, regular brushings to remove loose cat is extremely helpful.  Even short haired cats can benefit from this.  There are also products available that are a combination cat toy/grooming device, that when your cat rubs against it helps to remove the loose hair.
  • Grooming – Having your cat professionally groomed to remove loose hair and excess undercoat or even having them shaved can be very helpful.
  • Hairball Remedy – The remedies act as a lubricant to help the hairballs pass through the cat’s digestive tract.  Although this can help for some cats, it doesn’t work in all of them.  It is best to discuss this with your veterinarian before using to ensure the product will be safe for your cat and their situation.
  • Hairball diets –  Generally these diets are higher in fiber and work on the premise that the fiber keeps the digestive tract moving.  As with the remedies, this may work in some cats but not in others.

As mentioned above, vomiting hairballs should not be the “norm” for your cat.  Although it may occur on occasion, if it is happening with any frequency or regularity it is best to see your veterinarian to uncover the underlying cause.  Inflammatory bowel disease, even some types of intestinal cancer and many other serious illnesses can have vomiting as a symptom.

There is also another problem that can occur with hairballs besides vomit – intestinal blockage.  On occasion the hairball can become lodged in the digestive tract and may require surgery to be removed.  If your cat isn’t really eating, isn’t acting normal, is hiding,  lethargic or listless, vomiting, or having trouble in the litterbox, don’t hesitate to get him in to the vet.

Ultimately the best solution to reduce and prevent hairballs from being an issue is to assist your cat in their regular grooming.  Brushing them yourself or bringing them to a groomer can make all the difference.

grooming cats

 

Additional sources:

www.petmd.com – Cats and Hairballs