Cat Hairballs

Shedding hair is usually a normal process for cats

Blame it on the sun. Outdoor cats, who are exposed to natural sunlight, are in tune with the seasons and tend to shed more in the spring and fall. On the other hand, indoor cats (I have five) live with artificial light and therefore can shed continuously.

As a rule, feline hair loss should not be patchy, but fairly uniform. Hair loss can be caused by a number of medical conditions. It might be wise to consult with your vet.

Cats groom constantly – driven by instinct – to preserve and care for their fur. Not only is their fur beautiful, it also insulates them and protects their skin from injury.

picture of a cat’s tongue, the center showing barb like hooks Your cat’s tongue plays an important role in the grooming process.

It’s equipped with hundreds of tiny barbs designed to snag the fur,
as your cat licks. Your cat then swallows it all.
Hopefully, most of the swallowed fur will simply pass through your cat’s digestive system
and be eliminated in his feces (poop).

But once in the stomach, those hairs – which are not easily digested – can start sticking to other stomach contents such as saliva, undigested food, and gastric juices … and the dreaded hairball is born.

Like rolling snowballs, cat hairballs grow larger. They then begin to irritate your cat’s stomach – which usually triggers vomiting. When your cat is ridding itself of a hairball he or she will probably have your attention – with coughing, gagging, retching, and other happy sounds associated with throwing up.

Hairball symptoms include a loss of appetite, weight loss and constipation. Cats will often throw up (regurgitate) undigested food as well.

Feline vomiting, can be caused by any number of other medical problems, some serious. If vomiting persists consult your veterinarian.

Cat hairballs do not actually look like balls. They are, in fact, tubular or sausage shaped and can easily be confused with poop. As a rule, the easiest way to find hairballs is to walk around in the dark with bare feet.
How to Control Hairballs

The best solution? Remove some of the hair.

Some cats loved to be brushed … and others don’t. The trick is to convince your feline that brushing her fur is a pleasurable, bonding experience.

Begin with brief sessions and short strokes. Speak softly and alternate your brush strokes with petting. My cats like to sniff the brush first, so they can identify it as non-threatening object.

Some cats have very sensitive skin – often the stomach and lower back areas. For that reason, it is best to start with the neck or upper back. You know your cat and what will work.

snobby cat preening himself, fussing with his fur

After a nice meal my cats usually relax and groom themselves.
The after dinner hour is an opportune time to brush their coats.

Hairball lubricants

There are a variety of hairball preparations available over the counter. They lubricate your cat’s digestive system allowing the hair or hairball to pass through. Give your vet’s office a call and ask which products they recommend. Always follow the package instructions. Never use human medications on your cat.

Some cats like the lubricant and will lick it right off your finger. For those who don’t, smear it on their paw. If you only dab it on chances are your cat will flick it off and splatter it all over your walls.

Hairball formula fat food

Some cat foods have been specifically developed to control hairballs. Usually, they contain more fiber which assists in the passage of hair through the digestive tract. Look for at least eight percent crude fiber.

You can also add fiber to your cat’s diet by providing some organic cat grass.

Hairballs and other ingredientscat playing with string

A cat will swallow string, thread, twist ties and all sorts of things.

If you think your cat has swallowed anything unusual, give your vet a call immediately. Your cat could be in serious – even life threatening – trouble.

If you try to remove the object yourself, by pulling it, you could damage your cat’s organs.

Fur sure, prevention is the best hairball medicine. Groom your cat frequently. Offer a high fiber diet and use lubrication products, as recommended by your vet.

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