A common problem for cat owners is hairballs. A hairball is actually something that’s quite unpleasant to the sight. It’s a long and tubular hair mass that the cat vomits out. Please don’t worry, it is not terrible as the horrific thing that Steve Freeling vomits out in Poltergeist II. That’s a topic for another time.
Causes of Cat Hairballs
Hairballs occur when the cat swallows hair when it’s being groomed. It’s typical feline tendency to groom themselves by licking. As they lick, they swallow their own hair, thus creating a hairball. Normally however, the feline’s digestive system handles this hair, ejecting it out through the gastro-intestinal tract with its feces. The hair mass may also be vomited out in certain situations.
Regular grooming is the best way to prevent the cat from developing hairballs. Frequent combing and/or brushing removes the bulk of the cat’s loose hairs before they get ingested. This limits the bulk of hair that the cat swallows.
Your cat will have less hairballs if you groom him frequently. It needs to be borne in mind that both short and long haired cats can get hairballs. The latter category however, are more prone to them. So groom your longhaired cat more frequently to avoid this. Some cats that shed a lot require daily combing/brushing. Additionally, regular grooming keeps the cat’s coat free of mats and tangles, spreads the skin oils evenly and keeps the skin healthy.
Remedies for Cat Hairballs
There are numerous cat hairball remedies to control hairball development. Most of such remedies are petroleum-based and try to lubricate the hairball so that it passes through the intestinal tract more easily. These may work for some cats but not all. Some veterinarians even opine that such remedies can be harmful and are ineffective in treating or preventing hairball formation. It’s important to discuss the cat’s exact situation with your veterinarian before such products can be administered.
Certain cat foods produced commercially are also available to help control and/or prevent hairballs. These diets are highly fiber-rich, working on the assumption that fiber helps in improving and maintaining gastrointestinal tract motility. These again work for some cats maybe but not for all.
Diet Based Remedies
Recent theories state that grain-free diets are more appropriate for felines that throw up frequently. The theory is based on the fact that cats did not evolve to consume grains. Cats happen to fall in the obligate carnivore category, their “natural” diet comprising high levels of proteins and low carbohydrates.
Moreover, since grain-based foods are richer in carbohydrates, they make positive changes to the cat’s intestinal flora i.e. healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. These tend to enhance intestinal tract motility and force the hairball out through the cat’s feces.
While a majority of cats may vomit out the occasional hairball, it is no common event. If the cat happens to be vomiting too frequently without or with hair, it could be indicative of inflammatory abdominal disease. Moreover, a stuck hairball could also cause an intestinal obstruction. This calls for immediate medical attention and may also require dietary changes and even surgery to remove this obstructing element.
A frequently vomiting cat at the end of the day needs careful investigation and appropriate treatment as decided by your vet.