While there are many diseases and concerns for pet owners to be aware of, there is one that is unique to our feline friends-the issue? Hairballs! Thanks to the natural fastidiousness of the feline, a new problem is created- wet, ingested hair, typically referred to as a hairball, or its more scientific name, gastric trichobezoar. Usually, cats expel the hair naturally, but there are cases where that expelling does not occur and forms a dense hairball in the cat’s stomach, which is then vomited out.
Symptoms and Signs of Hairballs
If you are a new cat owner, then you may have never experienced hairballs and not know what to look for. And, if you don’t what symptoms to watch for, it can be hard to prevent them. So, without any further ado, here is a list of basic symptoms.
- Little or no appetite
- A clean litter box
- Dry, matted fur
- Depression or lethargy
- Cylindrical masses of fur on the floor or furniture
Keep in mind also, that hairballs are more common in long-haired breed such as Persians and Maine Coons, or in cats who are obsessive about grooming, but they can occur in any cat. Also, hairballs are more common in older cats, than in younger ones.
So, what can be done about hairballs? After all, while they are a normal part of being a cat, they can also be dangerous and result in such unpleasant things as the vomiting of undigested food, dry retching, inability to have a bowel movement, diarrhea and a swollen abdomen. If your cat exhibits any of these problems be sure to take them to the vet, immediately. However, rather than having to treat the problem, it is better to focus on the preventative. So here are some steps from Drs. Foster-Smith.com that you can take to keep hairballs at a minimum.
- Grooming- Although cats groom themselves, they will still be glad to let you do it for them. Consider using products such as a dual sided brush, an ergonomic brush or the Love Glove to help lift away cat hair.
- Diet – Be sure your cat has a diet that is rich in fiber, making it easier for the cat to have a bowel movement. You may also want to consider planting a patch of Cat Grass, which is easily grown either inside or outside. The grass can be added to your cat’s food. There are varieties of cat foods on the market that are designed to help prevent hairballs, as well.
- Laxatives- To aid the digestive system, it is not incorrect to occasionally give your cat a laxative, ideally one that is petroleum based.
- Water – Just as with humans, water is an important element of your cat’s diet.
- Discourage excess grooming –This can be done by sidetracking your cat with a toy or activity when they start grooming themselves.
Many veterinarians and cat experts believe doing the grooming for the cat to be the best choice, outside of plenty of water, for preventing hairballs. Not only does your doing the grooming prevent hairballs, but it strengthens your bond with your cat. The first time or two you groom your cat, it may take a while to get off all the excess hair, but once that is done, it will not take more than a couple of minutes per day.
There are also a variety of home remedies for dealing with hairballs. Here are two to get you started-these can be administered two to three times a week:
- Feeding your cat approximately ½ teaspoon of butter
- A teaspoon of non-flavored canned pumpkin or baby food squash- this is also helpful as it adds some fiber to your cat’s diet.
Having a cat is a joy. Their playful feline spirit and unique perspective on life can bring much happiness to those they own (Oops! Make that, ”to those they live with!”) Be sure to do your part to ensure that your cat is both happy and healthy. With just some simple grooming, a healthy diet and an attention to any changes in behavior, you can see to it that hairballs are not a part of your cat’s daily actions.