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Managing Feline Hairballs     

Dr. Al Townshend

No one likes to hear the hacking and regurgitation sounds that occur when a kitty is bringing up a slimy hairball. We hate to have our treasured feline experience such distress, and cleaning up after a hairball is no fun for the Guardian.

Because cats are usually fastidious groomers, and their tongues have tiny backward projections that grab hair and move it down the throat, hair can accumulate in the stomach and cause irritation. Problems arise if hairball issues are too frequent.


Signs That Hairballs May be an Issue

  • Hacking and retching. Sometimes a hairball comes up, and there are times when there is no hairball.
  • Evidence of excessive grooming and hair loss in certain areas.
  • Listlessness
  • Loss of appetite (hairballs are irritating and can upset appetite).
  • Excessive hair in the feces may suggest hairballs are also an issue.
  • Constipation or diarrhea with excessive hair can signal a potential hairball issue.


What Makes a Cat More Susceptible to Hairballs?

  • Long-haired cats such as Persians and Maine Coon Cats are at greater risk because they have more hair and it is longer.
  • Warmer weather initiates shedding and may increase the pets need for grooming.
  • Underlying behavioral issues such as anxiety may encourage an increase in grooming.
  • Primary digestive problems may make the stomach more sensitive.


How to Help Prevent Hairball Issues

  • Grooming your cat can reduce the amount of hair a cat ingests. It is usually a pleasant experience for the cat and helps to improve the bond between pet and Guardian. Grooming is usually a pleasurable experience for the cat, and helps to improve the bond between pet and Guardian. Be sure and use a de-shedding brush to remove the most hair.
  • Curb excessive grooming by redirecting the cat to a play session with toys and games. We carry a wide variety of great toys to help.
  • Pet specific wet-wipes can help remove loose hair.
  • Foods designed to help a cat move hair through the digestive tract have a bit more fiber in them. Fiber grabs the hair and quickly moves it into the intestinal tract.
  • Adding fiber to the diet with treats and supplements can also help. Canned pumpkin and dehydrated or freeze-dried pumpkin treats are good additions to the daily diet.
  • Certain oils and mild laxatives can help move hair and sooth the gut. Consult your veterinarian prior to giving your pet any laxatives.

Hairballs can be uncomfortable for the kitty and frustrating for the Guardian.

If hairballs are a frequent issue and all efforts to solve the problem have been unsuccessful, be sure and contact your veterinarian to help get to the root cause and develop an effective solution. 

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