Cats are known for their soft fur, but his fur can result in hairballs. Cats groom themselves using their tongues, and as a result they ingest the dead, loose hair. Most of this passes through the digestive tract, but sometimes it can irritate the stomach lining, and the cat will regurgitate this mass of hair. Invariably, this hairball will be left on your rug or some other conspicuous spot. Although there is no cure for hairballs, there are a few things you can do to minimize them.
Here’s how to deal with hairballs:
- Groom your cat. By brushing your cat often, you are removing the dead hair. Following the brushing, wipe your cat with a damp cloth, removing any remaining loose hairs. This will mean that your cat will swallow less fur as he grooms himself. When a cat grooms itself, the loose fur becomes trapped in its tongue, leaving the cat unable to spit it back out. When swallowed, the hair will either pass through the gastrointestinal tract or be regurgitated as a hairball. Reducing the amount of fur your cat swallows will reduce the occurrence of hairballs.
- Use a hairball product. There are products available made specifically to reduce the number of hairballs. They are designed to be pleasant tasting to cats, and can be fed to them in the form of paste, or rubbed onto their paws, where they will lick it off. They lubricate the digestive tract to help hair pass through without causing a hairball.
- Feed hairball treats or food. Some types of cat treats or food are made for cats which have frequent hairballs. Some, for example, contain mineral oil to break up the hairballs. Others are high in fiber. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations if you plan to switch to a hairball remedy food. If you plan to deal with hairballs by switching your cat’s food, the change should be made slowly to allow your cat time to get used to the new food.
- Discuss the problem with your veterinarian. If your cat retches for a day without bringing up a hairball, or is not willing to eat because a hairball has blocked the gastrointestinal tract, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible, as the hairball may be too big, requiring a procedure to remove this hairball. It’s also important to visit your vet if your cat has chronic hairballs that happen more than once per week. If other remedies have not cut the hairballs down to a frequency of less than one per week, discuss the possible causes with your veterinarian.
All cats are susceptible to hairballs, not just the ones with long hair. If you own a cat, you’ll have to deal with hairballs at some point or another. Cats usually regurgitate a hairball a few times per month. It’s important to remember that hairballs are normal, but if your cat seems to get them too frequently, you’ll want to look at ways to cut down on the number of hairballs.