Cat Hairballs – Everything You NEED to Know!
Cats groom constantly driven by instinct to preserve and care for their fur. Not only is their fur beautiful, a well maintained coat actually enhances good health.
Fur protects their skin from injury, sunburn and warms them when it’s cold. Their saliva cools them when it’s warm and also has antiseptic properties.
How cat hairballs are formed
Your cat’s tongue is equipped with hundreds of tiny barbs designed to snag dead and loose fur, when your cat grooms. When your cat’s tongue is coated with hair, the only thing it can do is swallow it.
Hopefully, most of the swallowed fur will simply pass through your cat’s digestive system and be eliminated in his stools (poop).
But once in the stomach, those hairs, which are not easily digested can start sticking to other stomach contents such as saliva, undigested food, and gastric juices and the hairball is born.
Like rolling snowballs, cat hairballs grow larger. They then begin to irritate your cat’s stomach – which usually triggers vomiting.
When your cat is trying to rid itself of a hairball he or she will probably have your attention – with coughing, gagging, retching, and other happy sounds associated with throwing up.
Should your cat not be able to rid itself of the hairball by vomiting or leaving it in the litter box, he or she could be in real trouble. Felines can choke on hairballs and – in severe cases – surgery can be required to clear a hairball blockage.
Symptoms of a stubborn, stuck hairball include:
- loss of appetite or
- eating only small amounts at a time
- weight loss
- loss of energy
Your cat might regurgitate (throw up) undigested food.
Health problems can cause a cat to lose large amounts of hair…
Excessive hair loss in cats can be a symptom of poor health. As a rule, feline hair loss should not be patchy, but fairly uniform. If parasites or allergies are making your cat itchy he or she will scratch, lick and swallow more hair. Skin disease or a poor diet can cause hair loss. Give your cat the best cat food you can afford.
Stress can cause a cat to over groom, and lifestyle … older and overweight cats who aren’t very active can spend more time grooming.
Vomiting the occasional hairball is considered normal for cats but reoccurring vomiting is not. If you have concerns, contact your vet.
Cat hairballs don’t actually look like balls but are tubular or sausage shaped, and can easily be confused with poop.
A green tip for removing hairball stains from carpets
Pour some club soda on the stain and leave it on for a minute or two. Gently blot with a paper towel or cloth and then let the carpet dry. This treatment works best with fresh stains. Sometimes a second application is needed. It’s the only thing I use.
Avoid feeding your cat brightly colored food !
What you can do to help your cat with hairballs?
- give your cat a hand with grooming
- a diet higher in fiber
- hairball lubricants or oils
Your best solution for preventing cat hairballs … remove some of that loose hair
Some cats loved to be brushed … and others don’t. Many cats have sensitive skin – often the stomach and lower back areas. For that reason, it is best to start with the neck or upper back.
(Some of these brushes are pretty rough. If you run the brush over your arm it’s easy to understand why some cats – whose skin is thinner than ours – don’t like being brushed.)
If your cat isn’t co-operating begin with shorter sessions. You know your cat and what will work.After a nice meal, cats usually relax and groom themselves.
The after dinner hour is a perfect time to brush their coats.
Ideally, you should brush your cat at least every few days.
A quick solution for removing pet hair is to use a deshedding tool, such as the Furminator, which removes much more loose hair in just one grooming session.
Don’t expect to remove all the loose cat hair with a deshedding tool, in one go, as you see on commercials. Felines have sensitive skin. If your cat fusses, you may only be able to do a bit in one session.
Lubricants help move that cat hair along
Pet stores and vets carry lubricants for cat hairballs. They come in a tube and are flavored so they appeal to cats. This hairball medicine will lubricate your cat’s digestive system allowing the hair or hairball to pass through.
In order for any lubricant to be effective and safe, follow the package instructions. Never use human medications on your cat.
Some cats like the taste of the hairball lubricants and will lick it right off your finger.
For those who don’t, smear it on the front of the leg or paw in a thin layer. If you only dab it on, your cat can flick it off and make a mess of your walls.
If your cat is on a budget
… cats like butter, and some will lick it right off your finger. It can also be melted and added to wet food. Butter is not the best solution for cats that are overweight, on a salt restricted diet or not well.
… some cat owners use vaseline; give about 1/4 teaspoon for a few days then weekly.
Hairball cat food
Some cat foods have been specifically developed to help control cat hairballs. Hairball cat food contains more fiber which assists in the passage of hair through the digestive tract.
Some natural remedies for cat hairballs
You might have to test and adjust the amounts to suit your cat.
… you can add fiber to your cat’s diet by providing organic cat grass or catnip. Some cats gobble it up and some will vomit it back up shortly after. This is nature’s way of ridding your cat’s body of unwanted hair.
Cat grass is easy to grow and some pet stores carry little containers of the growing grass. Cat grass is a must have for my indoor cats … and my daughter’s dog likes it too.
… another good source of fiber is canned pumpkin (not the pie filling which has sugar and spices added). I didn’t think they would, but my cats will eat it with soft food. Add about a tablespoon or two to one cup of food.
If your cat can’t eat a can of pumpkin in a few sittings try freezing some in ice cube trays. Some brands of canned pumpkin have a higher fiber content than others.
… offer your cat plain sardines packed in oil about once a week
… mix a small amount of fish or olive oil into your cat’s wet food
Cat hairballs and Other Ingredients
House cats swallow string, Easter grass, twist ties and other odd things. Once in their mouths, cats usually have no choice but to swallow.Do try to keep your floors clear of these items so your cat can’t get at them.
If you think your pet has swallowed anything unusual, don’t try to remove the object yourself by pulling it. You could damage your cat’s organs.
Give your vet a call immediately. Your cat could be in serious – and even life threatening – trouble.
Prevention is always the best medicine
Brush your cat or use a deshedding tool. Offer a high fiber diet and use some form of lubrication to help those hairballs to move along.