How To Prevent Cat Hairballs

Whether you are an experienced cat owner, or you are looking to add a feline friend to your family for the first time, hairballs are a common problem that you will undoubtedly encounter. Unfortunately, many owners don’t realise quite how much of a threat they can pose to their pet’s health. Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to protect your cat against hairballs, and help her enjoy a comfortable and happy life in your home.

What are Hairballs?

Cats are well known for the hours that they spend grooming themselves to perfection. In fact, it is this fussy grooming routine that actually causes hairballs.

In order to lap water effectively, cats have tiny, hook-shaped structures across the surface of their tongues. When your cat uses their tongue to brush across their fur, these hooks act like the needles of a brush, separating the hairs and unclogging any matted areas, as well as pulling out any loose strands. However, some hairs inevitably get stuck around these hooks, where they then pass back into the mouth and get swallowed.

A small amount of hair consumption is perfectly normal for cats, and most kitty’s can pass the hair through the digestive system with relative ease. Unfortunately, some hair can also get left behind in the stomach. Over time, this can accumulate into a clump, which your cat’s stomach then rejects. When this happens, your cat will try and vomit the hairball up, which despite its name, looks more like a long tube of soggy hair.

It is important that if your kitty does develop a hairball, she does puke it up. Failing to do so could eventually cause a blockage in the stomach or intestine, which is a life-threatening situation.

Symptoms of a Hairball

It is important to understand the symptoms of a hairball so that you can promptly get your cat the treatment that she needs. Some of the key signs that your feline friend may have a hairball include:

  • Retching/gagging

  • Vomiting a combination of food, bile and hair

  • Refusal to eat

  • Constipation

How to Prevent Cat Hairballs

We would always recommend owners to take steps to help prevent your cat from developing hairballs, and there is a number of different ways in which you can do this.

Great Grooming

Although your cat may spend plenty of time grooming herself, by taking control of some daily grooming you can remove a lot of the loose hair before your cat can. This will reduce the amount that gets stuck to her tongue during grooming and prevent large amounts passing into her stomach, thus making it less likely she will develop a hairball.

The amount of grooming your cat will require will depend on her breed as unsurprisingly, long-haired cats require much more brushing than their short-haired cousins. You will probably find that your furry friend quickly starts to enjoy the attention.

A High Fiber Diet

Fiber is an essential part of all diets, as it helps to support a healthy and efficient digestive system. This will help to ensure that hair that your cat does swallow can make its way through your pet’s digestive tract as smoothly as possible.

You may find that some cat foods specifically market themselves as being designed to reduce or eliminate hairballs. Typically, these foods contain much higher levels of fiber to aid digestion and reduce the likelihood of hair becoming trapped. However, in addition to this they often contain ingredients that improve the health and vitality of your pet’s coat so that she sheds less too.

Many feline owners believe that hairballs are an unavoidable element of caring for cats, but daily grooming and the right diet can significantly reduce the likelihood of your furbaby developing hairballs in the future. Contact us to learn more.