Tips & Tricks: How to Help Cats With Hairballs?
Did you kitty cough up a hairball again?
Cats spend between 30 to 50 percent of their day grooming themselves. Loose hairs on your kitty’s fur are usually swallowed. Your cat’s body can’t digest these hairs, so they usually cough them up.
They seem like harmless fuzzy balls, but are they?
Hairballs aren’t just unpleasant for you to clean–they’re also uncomfortable for your feline friend. In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to help cats with hairballs.
Let’s get started.
Kitty 101: What Are Hairballs?
Cats like to keep themselves clean.
They constantly lick themselves clean and, as a result, rarely need a bath. A study reveals that domestic cats spend a good 30-50 percent of their lifetime grooming themselves!
So, grooming leads to a lot of loose stray hair, which they unwittingly ingest.
The technical term for hairballs is trichobezoar, where Tricho means hair, and Bezoar means something stuck in the gastrointestinal tract.
Hairballs are not a cat-specific problem.
Other animals like rabbits, livestock, and other animals with a long fur coat who like to groom themselves develop hairballs.
Now, this is not an extremely scary problem. It has a pretty easily manageable solution
Here’s What Hairballs Do to Kitties: A Quick Peek
So, how does the hair cause these hiccups in a cat’s normal healthy functioning?
Normally, a major part of this dead loose hair passes through the cat’s stomach, causing no problem, nothing at all.
But, a small percentage of these hair follicles can stay back to form a hairball. It is natural for a cat to expel the fur either by gagging. You would find it mixed with saliva and vomit or eliminating it along with the undigested food via its rear end.
Hairballs and Colors: The Hairball is Lighter in Color!
The furball’s coloration is mainly reflective of the color of your cat’s coat mixed with the food and the digestive secretions.
Cats and rabbits are especially prone to furballs.
The longer the hair like in Persians and Maine Coons, the more are the chances of you finding hair follicles in the vomit or filling up your cat’s litter box.
Are Hairballs Even Normal!?
Before we teach you how to help cats with hairballs, there are a few things you need to know about them.
It’s pretty normal for your kitty to accidentally ingest some of her hair while grooming herself.
In fact, it is inevitable.
Your cat unknowingly swallows the loose hair as it licks itself clean that gets caught on its tongue on the hook-like structure called papillae. The stray hair then aided by these hooks are propelled down its food pipe or esophagus.
Kittens and younger cats are less likely to form hairballs since they are less adept at grooming themselves.
Summertime is when your cat would be troubled by more hairballs to get rid of the long winter coat.
So, you should be more prepared to clean up more during the onset of the summer months.
Why can it be hazardous to your cat's health?
Generally, hairballs are harmless.
But if you see your cat gagging with no hairball insight, it can be a good time to sound the alarm. Since the hair follicles’ main component is a dead protein called Keratin, protein mammals cannot digest themselves.
When it lumps up together, it can obstruct the alimentary canal. When a lump forms in the belly that is left undigested, it can stuff up your cat’s stomach.
The wad of fur can be too big to pass from the narrow sphincters and can cause excessive pressure.
At this stage, surgical intervention might be required.
If your cat passes a hairball more than once a week, a trip to the vet wouldn’t be unwarranted to be on the safer side of things.
It’s not the most pleasant experience both for the owner and the cat.
So, you should rush your cat to the vet if there is abdominal pain or lack of appetite; it may be a furball stuck in the gut.
But if you do not see a hairball at the end of the retching then one should visit a pet clinic, the vet might even prescribe an X-Ray or an ultrasound to see that nothing is obstructing the cat’s stomach.
It’s important to learn how to help your cat pass a hairball.
Raising Red Flags: Here’s When Hairballs Are a Problem
Before we teach you how to prevent hairballs in cats naturally, you need to understand a bit about when they are a problem for your cat.
You should be concerned when you find a lump in your cat’s appetite.
It may be a sign of a blocked alimentary canal that might make your pet irritable and tired.
If a hairball is left untreated for long, it might mineralize to become harder, and as your cat prepares to regurgitate it out of its system, it may get stuck and damage the esophagus.
If your cat is constantly found bothered trying to expel a hairball, then consult a vet to get the kidney, and liver function. Symptoms of a stuffed hairball include the following:
- Repeated unproductive retching
- Lack of appetite
Coughing, in some cases, is misunderstood as hairball hacking, but it can be symptomatic of a respiratory condition.
One should get that looked at if coughing is becoming too serious.
How to Help Your Cat Pass a Hairball: A Quick Look
We’ve finally reached the matter at hand! In this section of the article, we will teach you how to help cats with hairballs.
Prevention is Better Than the Cure: Grooming Your Kitty!
Groom or comb your cat regularly as a proactive measure.
After grooming your cat, remove the excess loose hair with hypoallergenic tissue like baby wipes. If your cat resists this routine practice, take your pet to a reputable grooming salon or vet for a regular haircut, especially if it is a long-haired breed.
Make it a point to brush your kitty’s hair at least once every two days to contain the shedding.
Some cats are excessive shedders, while others are hypoallergenic. The frequency of grooming depends on the breed.
How to Get Rid of Hairballs in Cats Naturally: Diet Hacks!
Here are some changes you can make to your kitty’s diet to help her pass hairballs:
- Switch to a hairball control feed–we’ve listed the best cat foods for hairballs in this blog post.
- Mix a bit of a hairball remedy with the feed, a cat laxative to ease stools passing if a clumped up undigested hair follicles are obstructing the gut. Keep in mind that some commercial laxatives lubricate your cat’s gut with an indigestible oil with a pleasing cat smell like malt or tuna.
- A fiber-rich diet and lesser empty calorie snacks can also enhance gut mobility, and a little with more exercise can naturally help things move easier along the intestines.
You can naturally do this by adding sunflower or fish oil to your cat’s food.
How Can I Help My Cat Pass a Hairball? Natural and Effective Home Remedies
Let’s take a look at some popular and effective home remedies.
Try Petroleum Jelly
One of the most effective home remedies you can try is rubbing a dab of petroleum jelly on your pet’s paws. So, when your kitty scratches, the lubricated fur now comes out via the right end.
Most people think that this wouldn’t work until they see it work like a charm!
Olive Oil Works Like a Charm
Instead of investing in commercial laxatives, you can add olive oil!
This neutral smelling oil would function the same as any other laxative. Proper lubrication of the gastrointestinal tract would help naturally help move and slip things well and ensure elimination.
Hydrate Your Kitty!
Ensure your cat is properly hydrated.
A dry diet will lower gut mobility and make the passing of stools harder, which further can be made dangerous by a hairball that stuffs up the intestine.
Adequate hydration will help your cat with constipation and make it easier for her to poop.
Overgrooming and Anxiety--There’s a Link
One of the most common reasons for overgrooming is underlying anxiety in cats.
So, if you address the underlying anxiety, you’ll be able to figure out what’s wrong with your feline friend. Common reasons include an underlying illness, lack of privacy, sharing of bowls, or some skin infection.
All in All: How To Prevent Hairballs In Cats Naturally
Did we help you figure out how to treat hairballs in cats naturally?
Generally, hairballs in cats aren’t something you need to be worried about. They’re just a part of owning a cat.
However, if your cat has frequently been throwing up some hairballs, it’s something you need to look into and try to prevent. The remedies we’ve mentioned in this article will help you be there for your kitty.
But, in case there’s a stubborn hairball stuck in there, you’ll need to visit the vet.
A good diet and good hydration should be enough to keep things moving in your cat’s gut well, but there can be instances when surgical intervention is unavoidable.
Dr. Veronica Heller
Born and brought up in Grand Marais, Minnesota, ever since she was a little girl, Dr. Veronica Heller dreamed of becoming a vet thanks to Sruffy, her family pet. She graduated from College of Veterinary Medicine, Minnesota and began her veterinary career in Larpenteur Animal Hospital in St. Paul as an emergency Veterinarian. Since then, she has worked with Minnesota Veterinary Hospital, Small Animal Hospital, and Blue Pearl Pet Hospital. Her interests in the field include preventive medicine, internal medicine, nutrition, and surgery. She’s also a loving pet mother to two cats and a Golden Retriever.