We have all seen the cartoons showing cats coughing up hairballs. Even Puss in Boots had them. If you are a cat owner, you have no doubt cleaned up a few hairballs yourself. What causes them? How can you stop them from happening?
Hairballs are a natural result of your cat grooming himself. The dead hair catches in your cat’s tongue and gets swallowed. Usually, the hair passes all the way through with no problem, but sometimes hair can cause intestinal blockages or get caught in the stomach and vomited up in the form of a hairball.
Long-haired cats tend to have more issues with hairballs, and adult cats have more problems than kittens since adult cats are generally better at grooming themselves. Indoor cats also tend to shed lightly year-round instead of shedding heavily in the spring, as outdoor cats do.
So what can you do?
- Groom your cat regularly. A daily combing or brushing can remove a lot of the hair that your cat would normally ingest, while spreading the natural oils through the cat’s hair and removing tangles. Start with short sessions (5-10 min) to get your cat used to being handled and groomed. Short-haired cats can be brushed less frequently. If you can’t groom your cat, consider taking him or her to a groomer to be clipped a couple of times a year.
- De-fur cat condos and cat beds. Keeping cat hair vacuumed up will reduce the amount of hair your cat could swallow.
- Feed your cat a hairball-reduction cat food. These foods are high in fiber and are designed to help hairballs pass through the digestive system.
- For cats that are especially prone to hairballs, you can try feeding them a hairball product. There are a number of gels designed to help hairballs pass. These are often flavored (chicken, fish) so your cat will lick it off a paw.
Contact your veterinarian if you notice your cat has the following symptoms, as this could indicate a potentially life-threatening intestinal blockage:
- Vomiting or retching without coughing up a hairball
- Not eating
Learn more about the Everett Animal Shelter. Plan a visit, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check out all of our adoptable pets. And be sure to watch our featured Pet of the Week on the Everett Channel.