If you’ve been unfortunate enough to find a hairball squished between your bare toes in the middle of the night, you’ll know how unpleasant they can be. Imagine what it’s like for your cat! There’s a reason it sounds like your cat isn’t having a good time when he’s hacking up a hairball – it’s because he really isn’t.
Hairballs are so common that we think they’re normal, but they’re not. Knowing how to prevent hairballs in cats is a wonderful help to your favourite kitty and the bonus is fewer chances for your to be jolted wide awake by midnight toe sludge.
What is a Hairball?
Well, first of all, they’re not actually balls. Hairballs are cylindrical wads made of hair, bits of food and assorted debris all bound together with some kind of slime. If that wasn’t gross enough, the medical name for hairballs is trichobezoars – tricho meaning ‘pertaining to hair’ and bezoars ‘a mass trapped in the gastrointestinal system’. I’m scared just reading that.
Hairballs are more likely to happen to long haired cats, compulsive groomers and cats who shed a lot. If you have more than one cat, the designated hairdresser of the crew will probably have enough hairball issues for everybody.
Apart from the obvious wads of gross on the carpet, hairball symptoms include retching, coughing, vomiting, constipation and general lethargy. However, these signs of sickness could mean many things, so if it goes on for more than a few days it’s best to see your vet.
Is This Normal?
You don’t have to be a doctor to know that masses are not supposed to get trapped in gastrointestinal systems. Cats are designed to swallow a certain amount of hair through their normal grooming and from any prey animals they eat in the great outdoors. When all is well in the digestive system, this swallowed hair passes through easily and ends up in the litter box.
When all is not well, if your cat is ingesting large amounts of hair through grooming himself and/or other cats, or if there is something amiss in the digestive system, swallowed hair builds up in the stomach and needs to be puked out on your carpet. Never on the tiles.
Here’s what Dr Aarff has to say about hairballs:
How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats
The easiest way to stop your cat having hairball problems is to groom regularly. The cat, I mean. Long-haired cats need to be brushed daily to help remove loose hair and dirt so that less is swallowed. Short haired cats probably only need it 2 – 4 times per week, depending on how much they shed. How you achieve this will depend on what your cat likes – you may have to try a few different brushes, combs or grooming gloves before you find one that hits the spot.
Making sure your cat is eating a moisture-rich diet will help reduce the frequency of hairball issues. When the digestive system is well hydrated, loose hair can do what it’s supposed to and just pass on through. Cats are not particularly thirsty creatures, they’re designed to get their hydration through the food they eat so if you’re feeding a dry-food only diet this could be the culprit. Consider adding (or switching to) a hairball control wet food as these are high in fibre to help the digestive system do its thing.
An all natural, petroleum-free hairball remedy can be given to your cat to help things along. These work as a lubricant by coating the mass of hair and helping it move along in the digestive tract.
Are Hairballs Bad For Asthma Cats?
Everything is bad for asthma cats. The real danger with hairballs is that they look like at first glance like an asthma attack, so it’s easy to assume one is the other and vice versa. Asthmatic cats have a hard enough time with life as it is, so preventing any extra stress or unwellness should be a priority. Hairballs are easy to avoid by doing simple, everyday things that will make your wheezy one happier and healthier.
When to See The Doctor
The occasion hairball is probably nothing to worry about, but if your cat is hacking up things frequently you should talk to your vet. Cats are not meant to throw up, vomiting is not a normal thing – if your cat has a hairball problem or a spewing problem, please keep an eye on the situation and go see the cat doctor as soon as you can.
Got a hairball problem? How did you fix it? Let us know in the comments below…