Hairballs can be a menace to felines and an undesirable vision to cat owners. They are ingested loose hairs, usually from grooming, that form balls or wads in the cats stomach. When the matted hair mass is too large to pass through the intestines, the cat either coughs or hacks up the hairball, or in rare cases, it may cause blockage in the digestive system in which the bundle must be surgically removed.
While all cats are susceptible to hairballs, long-haired cats such as the Persian, Himalayan and Maine Coon, are at higher risk. Generally they are most common in adult cats rather than kittens, because their hair gets longer and thicker as they mature. Hairballs are normal and even though hearing your cat hack may set you in a temporary panic, nothing can be done except be observant to make sure he or she successfully rids itself of the pesky nuisance.
A few things you can do to help prevent hairballs are:
- Groom your cat FREQUENTLY– Brushing your cat on a daily basis helps rid your pet of loose hairs. Every time your cat grooms itself it swallows loose hairs, so by you getting rid of the bulk, it is that much less hair your cat will ingest!
- Change Cat Food– Hairball Formula cat food is available to help the reduction of hairballs. They are high-fiber formulas that improve your cat’s coat, minimize shedding and help hairballs in cats pass through the digestive system.
- Lubrication– Hairball remedies are available at pet stores and most retail stores. They claim to taste good and are very effective. You can also use your own remedy by giving you cat a dab of petroleum jelly (if you can coax your cat to swallow it!) or a half of a teaspoon of melted butter. Butter usually works best because cat’s love dairy foods. This will help the hairballs pass through the digestive system instead of them hacking hairballs all over your floor!
Even though hairballs are quite normal, if your cat experiences these daily or more than a couple times a week, this may constitute a problem. Also, if your cat tries retching up the hairball and is not successful in one or two tries, you should call your vet immediately. The hairball could cause blockage not only in the intestines, but also in the throat or stomach and can be fatal.
Below are symptoms that you should be aware of that are potential life threatening blockages related to hairballs, and should call your veterinarian immediately if any should occur:
- Lack of appetite
- Ongoing gagging, hacking or vomiting without producing a hairball