One of the most appreciated things about cats is their soft, delicate fur. Another great thing about cats is that they are experts at grooming themselves. However, because they lick their fur, hairballs are inevitable. Though most hair will pass through the digestive system without any problems, if too much is ingested, the hair will build up and cause irritation in the stomach lining. This is how a hairball is produced.
Hairballs can become a recurring problem for cats, particularly those with long hair. Hacking up hairballs is an unpleasant experience for cats. Symptoms include vomiting, retching, constipation and a loss of appetite. Hairballs can also cause a blockage in the cat’s intestinal tract.
At times, cats who suffer from hairballs eat grass and plants to try and medicate themselves. Eating the grass causes them to vomit, which naturally brings up the hairball as well. So if you see your cat eating grass, chances are they have hairballs.
To help prevent your cat from getting hairballs in the first place, the best thing you can do is groom him or her regularly. Removing loose or dead hair will help limit the amount of hair that your cat is swallowing, in turn creating less hairballs.
Although cats with short hair still get hairballs, long-haired cats are especially prone to get them. Specifically for long-haired cats, it is a good idea to comb their fur on a daily basis. Doing this will also keep your cat’s fur free of mats and tangles and help your cat have healthy skin.
Hairball Remedies for Cats
There are several hairball remedies on the market to help cats. Most of them are made from petroleum jelly. They work by lubricating the hairball, which makes it easier to be passed naturally through the cat’s digestive system. While these work for some cats, they don’t work in all cases. Before you decide to give your cat one of these products, it is a good idea to consult with your veterinarian, as some believe that they are of no help at all.
Natural herb tablets are another common treatment for hairballs. These tablets include herbs such as valerian root, dandelion root, and senna leaf. The tablets act as a gentle laxative, so it helps the cat naturally pass the hairball.
In general, these tablets are given once a day during the cat’s molting period. However, if your cat is pregnant or lactating, these tablets should not be given.
There are also many cat foods on the market that are designed to help control or prevent hairballs. Many of these foods have a high amount of fiber, to make sure the cat’s digestive tract is functioning optimally. Again, these foods work for some cats but not for all.
Some veterinarians suggest that a better approach to controlling hairballs is to feed your cat a grain-free diet. The reason for this is because in the wild, cats do not naturally consume grains. Because grains are high in carbohydrates, they may cause changes in the flora of the cat’s intestinal tract. These changes may disrupt the natural passage of hair through the cat’s body.
If your cat is vomiting frequently, it is a good idea to take him or her to the veterinarian to rule out other health problems. Your vet may recommend a change in diet or some form of additional treatment.