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Cat Hairballs: If you’ve ever lived with a cat, you’ve probably encountered (or even stepped on) one of those slimy little hairballs. Needless to say, we’d rather spend time petting our cats than cleaning their hairballs off the floor or feet.
What to do if your cat has a hairball? Fortunately, there are ways to prevent these annoying hairballs from appearing!
What causes hairballs in cats?
Cats are meticulous when it comes to grooming, and they use their tongues to get the job done. Cat parents who have tongue-bathed their kittens know the rough texture of our furry friends’ tongues. That’s because their tongues are covered with tiny barbs that are great for removing dirt and other impurities from their fur. They are also excellent at picking up unwanted hair, which they then swallow.
Most of the time, these hairs can pass through the stomach and intestines and out the other side without any problems. However, if a large amount of hair gets stuck in your cat’s stomach, it will be regurgitated as a hairball.
What are the other symptoms of cat hairballs and what can you do if your cat has them?
Symptoms of cat hairballs
The telltale symptoms of cat hairballs are very familiar to most cat owners. They usually include
Most of the time, these noises indicate that your cat is about to expel a hairball. However, there are other, more insidious signs that your cat is having problems with a hairball and may need medical attention. If you notice any of the following signs in your cat, it’s time to abandon home remedies and go straight to the vet:
– Persistent spitting up or vomiting without a hairball.
– Changes in indigestion, such as diarrhea, constipation, or loss of appetite.
– Swollen or hard belly
However, if your cat produces hairballs and has no problem expelling them, there are steps you can take at home to reduce their frequency.
Natural remedies for hairballs in cats
Fortunately, hairballs are not usually a sign of a serious problem. However, if you’ve ever seen a cat spit one out, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not a pleasant experience for them. And we don’t like cleaning it up very much either. You’ll be happy to know that there are simple, natural remedies for cat hairballs.
Remedy 1: Brushing
Of course, one of the most effective ways to treat hairballs is to prevent them. Regular brushing removes much of the excess hair that is normally swallowed and regurgitated. It’s also a special opportunity to bond with our cats.
While some cats enjoy being brushed, others are not as enthusiastic. Gradually introducing grooming can help them adjust with as little pain as possible (for the cat or its parents!). Start with a pat or two with a grooming glove, then give a special grooming treat to ease the transition.
Another great gadget I’ve found for grooming cats is the Furminator. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is a great way to gently remove excess hair that could lead to hairballs.
You can gradually increase the number of brushings as your cat learns to tolerate and hopefully enjoy this time together. Brushing doesn’t have to be a long, tedious process. For long-haired cats, a few minutes a day is usually enough, and short-haired cats may only need to be brushed a few times a week.
Remedy 2: Fiber
We know that humans need to consume enough fiber in their diet, but did you know that it’s also important for our cats? Increasing the amount of fiber in your cat’s diet can help the hair he ingests move through his digestive tract instead of being vomited up.
To control hairballs, simply add some fiber to your cat’s diet with a delicious pumpkin powder. Possible sources of fiber include hairball-controlling cat foods, canned pumpkin, or small pieces of fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, or sweet potatoes. Most cats love the taste of pumpkin, and sprinkling a little pumpkin powder on their food adds fiber and a host of other healthy vitamins. Always be sure to consult your veterinarian before increasing your cat’s fiber intake, as too much fiber (or fiber from the wrong source) can have uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects.
Hairball control treats are a delicious way to support your cat’s digestive health, and treats are another delicious way to control hairballs. I love these Temptations Hairball Control treats because they not only help eliminate hairballs but also clean your kitty’s teeth.
Remedy 3: Natural lubricant
A teaspoon of fish, safflower, or flaxseed oil added to your cat’s food can coat a hairball, allowing it to pass into your cat’s system.
Another option is a hairball prevention jelly containing slippery elm, marshmallow, or papaya. These products are usually administered once or twice a week. Tomlin’s hairball remedy is a lubricant that comes in the form of a chewable gel or paste.
Remedy 4: Hydration
If a cat’s diet is not sufficiently hydrated, his digestive tract works harder than it should, which can worsen his hairball problem.
A water fountain can control hairballs by encouraging the cat to drink more water, which promotes digestive health. Most cats prefer to drink running water on the go. This means that even if your cat has constant access to a bowl of clean water, he or she may not drink enough. A water fountain is a perfect way to get your cat to drink more – my cat Olivia and I love our Catit flower fountain! I used to let my bathroom faucet drip a little so Olivia could come in and drink a little – but now my faucet is turned off and she can drink clean, running water at will!
Drinking water is important, but your cat can also hydrate with food. A cat whose diet consists primarily of kibble may not be getting the hydration it needs. By gradually introducing canned food, you will increase his water intake. This will help his digestive tract pass all that hair and waste instead of sending it back to where it came from.
While most hairballs are harmless, there are some danger signs to watch out for. A kitten that has retching or undigested vomit has stopped pooping, or has abdominal bloating or loss of appetite should seek immediate veterinary attention.
However, in most cases, trying these natural remedies can make a big difference. Our cats (and our floors) will thank us for making hairballs a thing of the past.