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And Meow … A Word About Kitty Hairballs

April 15, 2024

April showers bring not only May flowers, but also a variety of pet holidays and awareness events. Some of the more notable ones include National Hug Your Dog Day, Cat Lady Day, and Little Pampered Dog Day. Of course, some of the events on our schedule aren’t quite that cute or fun. For example, Heartworm Awareness Month isn’t exactly something to celebrate. Hairball Awareness Day takes place in April. While hairballs are not the most pleasant topic on our site, all cat owners should know what they are, why they form, and how to tell if there is something more going on. In this article from a local Plano, IL veterinarian provides some perspective on this common issue.

Hairballs 101

Trichobezoars are the formal term for hairballs. These are a rather unappealing side effect of one of Fluffy’s most admirable traits: her cleanliness. Your furry little diva may spend a significant amount of her day grooming herself and making sure her fur is neat and clean. Sooner or later, she will consume some of her own fur while completing her beauty routine. 

You probably have a good idea of what occurs next. It ends with Fluffy leaving a mess on the floor. Or maybe your bed. Or maybe your sneakers. Let us just say it isn’t her most adorable trick.

Why do cats have hairballs? Cats’ tongues include microscopic hairs known as papillae. That is why your pet’s tongue has a sandpaper-like texture, as you may notice when she licks you affectionately. The placement of those small follicles helps propel anything she ingests down her throat. Unfortunately for Fluffy, this includes hair.

What Happens If My Cat Cannot Expel Her Hairball?

It’s important to remember that hairballs can sometimes cause major health problems. If a hairball becomes lodged in your pet’s system and she is unable to eliminate it normally, you may need to seek immediate veterinary care for her. Intestinal blockages and ruptures are serious medical problems that can be lethal.

Warning signs that you should be aware of include loss of interest in food; dry heaving; withdrawal; behavior and vocalization changes; coughing; vomiting blood or foam; severe or excessive vomiting; constipation; and lethargy. If you see any of these things, contact your veterinarian right away.

Do Longhaired Cats Get More Hairballs Than Kitties With Short Fur?

Maybe. Certain cat breeds, such as Maine Coons and Persians, are more likely to develop hairballs than others. However, it is important to note that all of our feline pals, with the exception of hairless cats, can produce hairballs. Plus, kitties with short fur can sometimes have dense coats, which can also lead to hairball issues.

Long-haired cats definitely benefit from regular combing. This will also assist in minimizing knots and tangles.

What Can I Do To Prevent Hairballs?

There aren’t any foolproof cures, but there are some ways you can help your feline companion out by at least reducing the amount of hairballs she gets. 

Hairball Preventatives: There are products on the market that are made specifically to help prevent hairballs. Consult your veterinarian to confirm that these are suitable for your cat. Our furry pals all have their own individual requirements.

Water: Be sure to keep Fluffy hydrated. (This is also beneficial to her overall health.) If you have a large house, multiple floors, and/or more than one kitty, set out extra water stations.

Grooming: Brushing Fluffy is an extremely effective technique. Your cat will be less likely to eat loose fur if you brush it away before she consumes it. This is also a good way to get that little motor going. Many kitties love being pampered! 

Pet Jelly: Your veterinarian may recommend applying pet jelly on Fluffy’s paws. She will lick it off, giving her digestive tract some more lubricant. Just stick with products your kitty’s doctor approves of.

Canned Fish: This will undoubtedly generate more purrs than the other options we’ve provided. Every now and again, treat your cute pet to a can of tuna or sardines. It is a good idea to talk to your vet about the appropriateness of tuna for your pet, especially if she has particular medical issues like thyroid issues.

Reduce Stress: Anxious cats tend to shed heavily. Fluffy may also over-groom herself if she feels nervous, scared, sad, lonely, or uncomfortable. Keep that engine running by giving your cute little pet plenty of attention and making sure she always feels loved and safe. 

Ground The Furball: Lastly, keep your feline companion indoors. Indoor cats are less affected by seasonal weather fluctuations, which can cause heavy shedding. Fluffy will also avoid rolling about in mud and dust, which isn’t exactly helpful when it comes to preventing hairballs. Plus, your furry little friend will be safer inside, where she will be sheltered from potential hazards like traffic, wildlife, and harsh weather.

For more specific advice, consult your Plano, IL veterinarian.

How Frequently Do Cats Experience Hairballs?

In an ideal world, your beloved feline buddy would rarely, if ever, have to deal with a hairball. Unfortunately, it happens fairly frequently for most cats. While some kitties do get more hairballs than others, we would generally estimate that about one every week or two is the high end of the normal range. If your kitty gets them more than that, consult your veterinarian, as this could signal a medical condition.

For additional information, call your Plano, IL pet clinic.

Will Feeding Fluffy Canned Food Reduce Hairballs?

Although canned food is not a cure-all, it is not going to hurt. Cats digest canned food at a faster pace than they do dry food. Everything will go through Fluffy’s system faster, which isn’t a bad thing. That said, there are many things to consider when selecting the best food for your furry friend. If you have any questions about your cat’s nutritional needs, please contact your veterinarian.

What Is The Right Way To Brush A Cat?

Wait until your pet is relaxed and slightly drowsy. (Given how much time cats spend napping, you probably won’t have to wait long.) Begin by simply petting Fluffy, moving your hand in the direction of her coat. Once you have gained purr activation, you can incorporate the brush. Exercise caution and avoid using undue force. Cats have very fragile skin. You do not want to hurt your furry friend! 

Fluffy cats, of course, are prone to getting knots. If you’re having trouble removing tangles with a detangling brush, try cutting them. Always use round-end scissors. You can also use a plastic letter opener, the kind that looks like a credit card with a notch cut out. Give your pet plenty of attention and praise, and maybe even a snack.

When Fluffy thinks she’s had enough, let her go on her way. Don’t push the matter; that’s a good way to wind up with scratches!

Conclusion: Cat owners frequently encounter hairballs. Although they may not be the most fun aspect of cat ownership, it is critical to take proactive steps to reduce hairballs in your cat and identify any health issues.

Our Advice on Kitty Hairballs in 2024

Are there any natural or homemade remedies that can help cats pass hairballs more easily?

Natural or homemade remedies to help cats pass hairballs more easily include increasing dietary fiber, which can be achieved by adding a small amount of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) to the cat’s food. This fiber helps move hair through the digestive tract more effectively. Additionally, a dab of olive oil or butter mixed into the cat’s food can serve as a lubricant to ease hairball passage. Always consult with a veterinarian before introducing new elements into your cat’s diet to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your specific pet.

Can hairballs ever be a sign of an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods or environmental factors?

Yes, hairballs can sometimes indicate allergies or sensitivities. When cats are allergic to certain foods or environmental factors, they may groom excessively to soothe itchy skin, leading to the ingestion of more hair and subsequent hairball formation. This over-grooming can be a response to dietary allergies, atopic dermatitis, or other irritants. If a cat is producing frequent hairballs, it’s advisable to evaluate their diet and environment for potential allergens. Consultation with a veterinarian can help identify allergies and recommend appropriate treatments or dietary adjustments.

Should you be concerned if your cat never seems to get hairballs?

No, there is generally no concern if your cat never seems to get hairballs. Some cats simply don’t groom as frequently or as intensely as others, leading to less ingested fur. Additionally, certain cats may effectively pass ingested hair through their digestive tract without forming noticeable hairballs. However, regular grooming and observation of your cat’s overall health and behavior are important. If there are any changes in appetite, weight, or coat condition, consult a veterinarian to ensure there are no underlying health issues.

Can frequent hairballs lead to other digestive issues like constipation or loss of appetite?

Yes, frequent hairballs can lead to digestive issues such as constipation or loss of appetite in cats. When hair accumulates in the gastrointestinal tract, it can obstruct the normal passage of food and waste, leading to constipation. Additionally, the discomfort associated with passing hairballs or an obstructed digestive tract may cause a cat to eat less, resulting in a loss of appetite. If a cat experiences frequent hairballs along with these symptoms, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian to address potential complications and improve digestive health.

Are there any interactive grooming tools or toys that can make brushing more enjoyable for cats who dislike it?

For cats who dislike traditional brushing, interactive grooming tools or toys can make the process more enjoyable. Consider grooming gloves, which allow for petting while capturing loose fur, offering a less invasive approach that many cats prefer. Additionally, grooming arches provide a hands-off way for cats to brush themselves while playing or rubbing against them. These tools not only minimize stress for the cat but also enhance the grooming experience, making it a positive, self-directed activity. Always introduce new grooming tools gradually and with positive reinforcement.

Schedule An Appointment At Our Veterinary Clinic In Plano, IL

Do you have any questions about your cat’s health and care? Call us anytime! As your Plano, IL pet hospital, we are here to help!

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