What are hairballs?
As the name implies, hairballs are balls of hair. They are often formed when your cat ingests hair through daily grooming. The hair is then brought into the stomach and begins to form into a ball. In most cases, the hair is then vomited back up by your cat, or slowly broken down, brought through the intestines, and attached to your cat’s stool. If your cat is unable to vomit up the hair, or it obstructs the opening to the intestines, then surgery may be required to have it removed.
What are the signs my cat has a hairball?
Signs of a hairball may include an increase in hair seen in the stool, a decrease in appetite, and coughing or gagging as if trying to clear something from the body. Your cat may also actually vomit up a hairball, which looks like a mass of hair usually combined with undigested food or stomach acids.
In more serious cases such as a bowel obstruction, your cat may lose his appetite completely, become lethargic, or may lose his inability to eat. His bowel movements may stop due to food not passing into the intestines, and he may begin to vomit up any food he attempts to eat. Your cat may also appear in distress with a painful abdomen, hunched back, or begin to hide. If you do see your cat exhibiting these signs, then a trip to the vet is needed immediately.
What remedies are available?
There are several solutions to hairballs that can help prevent them or make them easier for your cat to pass. The simplest solution is to increase the amount of time you spend grooming your cat. Deshedding tools and daily brushing of both long and short-haired cats can decrease the amount of loose hair on the body, and thus decrease the amount of hair ingested.
Supplements are also available to decrease hairballs and often come in a paste or liquid form for easy ingestion. These can be placed on your cat’s fur or paws to encourage consumption during normal grooming or may be added to the food directly. These supplements help break down the hair in the stomach as well as make them easier to pass into the stool through laxative means so that they do not form a large ball obstruction.
Prescription and over the counter hairball foods are also available. These work by increasing the fiber content in the diet, encouraging your cat to drink more water and also bulk up the stools. The fiber helps push the hair through the digestive tract to keep it from forming into a large ball and to keep the whole digestive system moving.
The combination of prevention, knowledge and recognition of hairballs can help keep a potentially serious incident from occurring and can make spending your time with your cat more enjoyable. Take the time to groom your cat as a way for the both of you to bond, and help keep your cat healthier!
Mr. Bentley & Ms. Bella
About our Writers
Pet Wish Pros is proud to have Bentley and Bella contributing to our pet health blog. For many years, Bentley has been passionate about improving and learning from the lives and experiences of homeless pets in the greater Atlanta area. Bella is usually busy discovering new pet health products and medications. In her free time, Bella enjoys working on her horse farm. Both Bentley and Bella are devoted to animal health & their experience allows them to keep you informed while saving YOU money!
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