Every cat owner knows that sound, your cat starts heaving and you start running, yelling “not on the carpet!”
If you’ve ever lived with a cat, you also know the feeling of stumbling down the hallway and feeling something wet, and possibly still warm squishing between your toes. If you’re making the face I am now, then you know I’m talking about hairballs. Every cat parent has wondered “how can someone so cute, cough up something so gross.” If you’ve ever wondered what exactly your cat is leaving for you to step in when you’re half-awake, and what you can do to stop it, read on!
What Exactly Are Hairballs?
Hairballs, the scientific name trichobezoars, are an accumulation of hair that is removed when your cat grooms itself. The tiny hooks on a cat’s tongue act as a comb and loose hair get trapped in these and swallowed. Usually, the hair passes through a cat’s digestive tract without issue.
If there is excessive hair, since hair is indigestible, it can clump together and form a hairball. This is why it’s more common for longer-haired cats, like Maine Coons, Persians, and Himalayans, to leave hairballs for you to find on your good rug. Older cats are also more likely to produce hairballs, they’ve perfected the art of grooming and tend to swallow more hair than younger cats.
The occasional hairball is harmless, but sometimes it can become problematic.
When Are Hairballs a Problem?
If you notice your cat is getting lethargic, is constantly hacking, or is starting to lose weight, you might have a more serious problem. Cats usually cough up hairballs and go about their day. Sometimes a hairball can get large enough to cause a blockage in their digestive tract.
If they’ve stopped eating, if their belly seems larger than usual and feels hard, or if it seems like they are straining during bowel movements, it’s time to get your fur baby to the vet.
Hairball Prevention for Cats
Wondering what you can do to stop your cat from coughing up gooey surprises? Here are some helpful tricks to avoid hairballs for your cat’s health and your, sanity.
- Brushing and Grooming- If your cat is curled up in your lap, break out the hairbrush. Daily brushing sessions will help remove loose fur and leave less for your cat to swallow. Wire slicker brushes are the best for removing loose hair. If your furry buddy isn’t a fan of brushing, there are also gloves with rubber teeth, so you can brush your cat and pet him at the same time. Daily grooming sessions are also a great way for you to bond with your fur baby. Longer-haired cats could benefit from a regular session with a professional groomer to help keep shedding under control.
- Hairball Prevention Diets- There are many cat foods on the market that advertise themselves as hairball preventing. These foods are higher in fiber to help with digestive motility, and have ingredients to help improve your cat’s skin and coat to prevent excessive shedding. You can find a homemade treat recipe we shared that can help as well!
- Hairball Gels and Laxatives- Your local pet store is likely to have a wide variety of hairball gels. These products help ease the passage of hair through the digestive tract. The gels have a slight laxative effect that will also prevent constipation from hairballs. They come in a tube, and you can have your cat lick it off your finger, their paw, or lick it straight from the tube. The gels come in a variety of flavors, so your kitty will think she’s getting a tasty treat.
- Adding Oil To Food- Adding a small amount of oil, such as fish oil or olive oil to your cat’s food helps the hair slip through the digestive tract. Oils will also help your cat’s skin and coat health improve, and prevent excessive shedding.
- Check-Up- If it seems like your cat has more hairballs than usual, they may just be a symptom of another problem. An increase in their frequency could indicate that your cat is grooming more often due to skin irritation or hair loss. This could be because of an allergy, flea infestation, or other skin conditions. A visit to the vet will help indicate if your cat has a more serious problem.
Hairballs are one of the less pleasant parts of life with cats, but with these tricks, you can reduce the amount your cat produces.
Are you going out of town, and want to make sure your fur baby stays brushed and well-cared for, and you don’t come home to hairballs on the carpet? Check out our services page!
For more information on groomers in Brevard County, Florida, take a look at our blog.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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