Top tips on how to reduce hairballs

Kids cartoons and other comedic tv shows make cat hairballs out to be something of a joke. Unfortunately, they aren’t just unpleasant for your furry friend – they can actually be dangerous too. Whether you are an experienced cat owner, or you are looking to adopt a feline for the first time, hairballs are a common occurrence. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to reduce the number of hairballs that your pet experiences and keep your cat safe and happy.

What are hairballs?

Cats are well known for an extensive amount of time that they spend grooming themselves. Whilst it may seem great that your furbaby is undertaking this take for themselves, it is actually this fussy grooming routine that causes hairballs.

To be able 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 trapped around these hooks, where they then pass back into the mouth and your cat then swallows them down into their digestive tract.

A small amount of hair consumption is perfectly normal for cats, and most can pass the hair through the digestive system with no real issues. Unfortunately, inevitably some hair gets left behind in the stomach. Over time, more and more hairs get left behind where it accumulates into a clump. Eventually, this gets so large that your cat’s stomach is prompted to reject it – which it will try to do through vomiting. It can take a great deal of retching for a kitty to get a hairball up, and you will see this before your furbaby is successful in producing it. Despite being called a hairball, these clumps are usually long and thin owing to having traveled back up through the esophagus which is tube-shaped.

It is important that any cat that has a hairball manages to vomit it out. 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 needed to ensure that it is expelled from their body. 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

Tips to reduce hairballs

As a conscientious owner, it is important that you do what you can to reduce hairballs as much as possible.

Regular grooming

Although your cat may spend plenty of time grooming, you should be grooming them regularly too as this will remove a lot of the loose hair before your cat has to. This will reduce the amount that gets stuck to your cat’s tongue during grooming and prevent large amounts of passing into the stomach, thus making it less likely that a hairball will develop.

The amount of grooming your cat will require will depend on the breed as unsurprisingly, long-haired cats require much more brushing than short-haired breeds. Most cats come to adore a good grooming session and it provides you with a perfect opportunity to do some increased bonding with your pet.

A high fiber diet

Fiber is an essential part of all pet diets as it helps to support a healthy and efficient digestive system. This will help to ensure that any hair that your cat does swallow can pass 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 they shed less too.

Hairballs don’t have to negatively affect the health and happiness of your cat. Follow the tips above to help reduce the likelihood of your feline friend experiencing this problem. If you need further advice, please speak to our expert veterinary team at the Little Cat Clinic, La Mesa, CA.