As much as we all love our felines, the hairballs they tend to produce remain one of the most troublesome aspect of owning a cat. When cats struggle to expel a hairball out of their system, they make disturbing retching and gagging noises that can change your mind about your lunch or wake you up in the middle of the night. Either way, you end up having to clean vomit from the floor.
Since that’s less than an enjoyable experience, you have probably wondered what can be done about it. Read on to learn all about hairballs and how to prevent them from troubling both your cat and your senses.
What causes hairballs in cats ?
Cats are self-groomers, which means that they stay clean by licking themselves, and those dreaded hairballs are created as a byproduct of your cat’s self-care routine. As she grooms her fur, her rough tongue catches loose hair, which then inevitably ends up ingested. Normally, the hair passes through the intestinal tract and ends up in the litter box.
But sometimes, it becomes matted and accumulates in the stomach or esophagus, forming a hairball. Instead of being partially digested and excreted, a large hairball has to come out in another way. Struggling with discomfort and potential intestinal blockage, the cat will have no other choice than to vomit it up.
How often do cats cough up hairballs ?
This typically happens once every couple of weeks, with hairballs being about an inch long in general. The process of puking these up looks differently in every cat – some accompany it with loud crying noises, while others don’t want to draw much attention on themselves – yet a good general telltale sign is when the cat stars making loud retching noises.
Are hairballs dangerous to cats ?
Besides being unpleasant to deal with, hairballs can also cause fatal intestinal blockages and other serious health problems in cats. Even though most of the hair that cats swallow successfully passes through the digestive tract, some stray hairs remain in the stomach and form a hairball which eventually has to be vomited up. Long-hair breeds such as Persians, Himalayan cat breeds and Maine Coons tend to produce more hairballs.
Highly frequent hairballs or vomiting without hairballs could be signs of even more serious digestive trouble, including cancer. In the case of prolonged vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation or diarrhea, take your cat to the vet immediately.
How to prevent hairballs in cats ?
Fortunately, there are ways for you to help minimize hairballs in your cat. The following tips and tricks are a great place to start!
Daily grooming can effectively solve the issue because the less loose hair there is for the cat to swallow, the fewer hairballs she will produce. Daily brushing with an adequate comb will help rid your cat of loose hair without it being swallowed, and she will most likely learn to love it. An added bonus of frequent grooming is less hair on your furniture and clothes.
The amount of shedding is ultimately influenced by a cat’s diet. While shedding hair is normal for all cats, too much of it can be a symptom of underlying medical issues such as stress-related disorders, nutrient deficiency, allergies, infection and sunburn. A healthy high-fiber diet can be of crucial help for reducing shedding and hairballs in your cat. You can easily infuse your cat’s diet with more fiber by mixing a tablespoon of canned pumpkin into her food once per week.
Provide some lubricants
There are different products on the market today that can help hairballs pass through cat’s intestines more easily, thereby reducing the need for vomiting. But you don’t even have to use commercial products to get this benefit – water is also a natural lubricant. Make sure that your cat has access to plenty of fresh, clean water at all times. Adequate water intake will also keep a cat’s skin and fur hydrated and healthy.
Olive oil is another great way to ease digestion – you can add a teaspoon of it to your cat’s food to ensure the smooth passage of hair through the digestive tract.
Excessive grooming, followed by an excessive amount of hairballs, is often practiced by bored cats looking to pass the time. This can easily be counteracted by providing new interactive toys and stimulating forms of entertainment once in a while and spending quality time with your cat. Getting another pet that your cat can socialize with can also help keep boredom at bay.
If hairballs are your pet peeve, you should know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent them from appearing on your kitchen floor again. With the help of a little tweaks in your cat’s diet, playtime and grooming routines, you can keep hairballs at a minimum and protect her digestive health.