How to Prevent and Treat Hairballs for Your Cat
Cats are consummate groomers that work hard to keep their coats shiny and immaculate. While cleaning themselves with their tongues, felines ingest fur that has been shed. This fur cannot be broken down or digested and if it doesn't pass through a cat's digestive tract, it can form into hairballs.
Developing hairballs is normal for felines. All cats spit them up occasionally. But sometimes, hairballs that aren't excreted can put a pet's intestinal health at risk. Read on for the best, at-home hairball remedies for your feline companion, and to learn about several great treatments that will help keep your furry family member's digestive tract running smoothly.
What are hairballs?
Hairballs are balled tufts of hair that form in your cat's digestive tract after grooming sessions. Veterinarians call the phenomenon trichobezoars. Feline tongues have hook-like features that trap loose, previously shed hair. When your cat swallows the fur, it travels to its stomach and is not digested.
Most fur harmlessly leaves a cat's digestive tract without causing problems. Other times, a pet will vomit the trapped hair that isn't excreted through stools. And, despite it's name, the hairball isn't always in a round shape; it will usually have an elongated shape after it passes through your cat's esophagus.
Which cats are more likely to develop hairballs?
All cats develop hairballs at some point in their lives. There are several types of cats that are more likely to get hairballs than others. Long-hair breeds and frequently shedding cats expel them more often. Additionally, felines that constantly groom will be more prone to hairballs.
Older cats also regurgitate more hairballs. The reason is that as a cat ages, it becomes a better groomer and, therefore, more reason to develop them.
Symptoms of Hairball Problems
Your cat may display the following symptoms if it's having a problem with hairballs.
Your cat will be slow, sick, and uninterested in its normal activities.
Hacking, Coughing, and Gagging
A cat might try regurgitating the hairball, but it isn't expelled from its mouth. Try one of the below at-home hairball treatments to see if it can help rid your cat of the material. If this doesn't work, visit your vet.
Has your cat stopped eating its meals? This is a sign that your pet isn't feeling well. A hairball could be causing a digestive tract obstruction. If your feline doesn't improve after an at-home remedy, take them to see the vet immediately.
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Changes in Bowel Movements
A cat that develops a large hairball in its digestive tract will have trouble excreting waste. Your pet may have frequent diarrhea or constipation. If this occurs, a trip to the vet is in order.
Your feline's stomach will swell if there is an obstruction. This is a clear sign to see your vet.
Sometimes a simple treatment that you can perform yourself is all your kitty needs to feel better. Here are a few techniques:
- Give your cat oils or butter. A little oil or butter will lubricate the intestinal system and help expel hairballs.
- Use Hairball Gels. These treatments lubricate your cat's stools and swallowed fur. They can also help regulate your feline's digestive tract.
- Feed them treats designed to get rid of hairballs. There are specially designed treats that can help your cat get rid of a stubborn hairball.
If a hairball is causing a dangerous obstruction, you will have to rely on surgery. Be sure to contact your vet as soon as you think something is wrong, so that your cat has a greater chance of a successful outcome.
How to Prevent Hairballs
- Brush your cat's fur daily. Regularly grooming your cat rids it of loose and shed hairs. When your cat grooms itself, it will be less likely to swallow fur.
- Keep your cat hydrated. Make sure that your furry friend drinks enough water to hydrate its intestinal tract. The liquid hydration will keep it lubricated and running smoothly.
- Feed your cat a good diet. Felines are carnivores. Their bodies are not designed to process carbohydrate-rich foods. Give your cat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, grain-free diet. Poor nutrition will cause digestion issues and increase the likelihood of hairballs.
- Provide digestive supplements. Feed your pet supplements that will improve digestion. There are several formulas that contain psyllium seed. It will encourage your cat's digestive tract to pass the hairball instead of regurgitating it.
- Give your cat catnip or cat grass. This treat can provide extra fiber for your feline which helps them expel the hairball.
If your cat is having problems with hairballs or you would simply like more information, contact us today.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.