Almost all cat owners will be aware of the hacking and gagging that comes with hairballs. Although this looks like a very unpleasant experience, most cats will throw up a hairball without too much trouble and will quickly recover from the experience. However, in some cases, hairballs can become frequent and severe. In extreme cases, this may be symptomatic of a serious health concern. For healthy cats, hairball frequency can be reduced using simple measures, such as hairball control foods, medication and grooming.
Why Do Cats Get Hairballs
A hairball, otherwise known as trichobezoar, is exactly as its name suggests a ball of hair. As a cat grooms, its sandpaper-like tongue catches loose hairs. The cat then swallows these hairs, which in most cases are passed through the digestive system without any complications. However, some hairs will become trapped in the stomach form a tight ball, which then cannot pass through the intestines. At this point, the only way for a cat to rid itself of the hairball is to vomit.
Of course, most cat owners will know that hairballs are perfectly natural and, in the vast majority of cases, no complications occur. However, if you are concerned by the severity and frequency of your cat's hairballs, you may like to seek advice from your vet.
How to Treat Hairballs
If you would like to help reduce the number of hairballs your cat has, then there are a number of methods you may like to try.
Firstly, it is important to regularly groom your cat. If you have a shorthaired breed, grooming should be completed once a week. Longhaired breeds, however, may need grooming everyday.
Another effective method of treating hairballs is to offer your cat a hairball control food. These foods should be readily available at your local supermarket or pet store. You may find that hairball control foods are more expensive. However, they are believed to be effective. When you offer a cat a new brand of food, it is important to make the change gradually.
Lastly, you may prefer to use some kind of hairball medication. These are typically lubricants or laxatives, which, of course, help the hair to pass through the cat's system. However, if you choose to use this method of treatment, it is important to take precautions to ensure that you do not overuse them.
Which Cats get Most Hairballs?
Almost all cats will get some hairballs. However, unsurprisingly, longhaired breeds, such as Main Coon, Persian and Ragdoll, will experience greater numbers and frequency. The long hairs will accumulate quicker and form balls in the stomach more often than cats with short hair.
Symptoms of Health Problems
As mentioned above, problems can occur. Therefore, owners should be on the look out for the following symptoms:
Consistent gagging or vomiting with no hairball
Significant weight loss and/or loss of appetite
Constipation and/or diarrhea
These are all signs that the hairball cannot be shifted and, therefore, may be trapped in the cat's esophagus. If you see any of the above symptoms, it is advisable to seek the help of a vet.
It is wise to bear in mind that you cannot completely remove the problem of hairballs. Cats self-groom and, therefore, will always have some hairballs. However, if you are concerned about a lack or excess of hairballs, seek the advice of a veterinarian.