Hairballs, as any pet owner will tell you, are simply purr for the course when it comes to cat ownership. Just like scooping the litter box, it’s one of the least glamorous, but most common cleanups.
But the simple fact that cats yack about as frequently as you can say catnip doesn’t mean you shouldn’t intervene.
Concerned about Fluffy’s hairball regurgitation? Manage the hacking with these hacks.
What causes hairballs in cats?
For as much time as we spend picking up after our pets, cats do possess a certain level of independence – namely, their ability to groom themselves. By design, their anatomy is literally made to trap and process dirt and excess hair.
Barbs on their tongues face opposite the front of their mouths, capturing rouge bits and pulling them away from the skin. Once lodged, they can only move in one direction: down the digestive tract.
That’s where the second phase kicks off. Ideally, any extra fur would make its way through the stomach and out the intestines without much disruption. However, the reality is that hair can amass in the stomach, creating blockages throughout a cat’s system.
Thus, a hairball is born. Also known as a trichobezoar, these mats of stray hair are more common in longhaired cats, but can also come from excessive grooming spurred by boredom or anxiety.
So what can you do about them?
Only your vet can tell you definitively if your cat’s hacks are cause for concern. Still, there are some DIY remedies you can try at home to help with hairballs.
- Good grooming. As a general rule, the more hair they have, they more often you’ll want to get busy brushing. In some cases, you may need to make it a nightly practice. Larger breeds, like Maine Coons, typically require human intervention to minimize hairballs. Good news is that all the one-on-one attention can bond you and your fur baby!
- Food fixes. Some specialty cat foods promise to target hairballs head on. Whether they claim to improve the skin and coat to help with shedding or bolster the digestive system, it’s important to research them thoroughly and talk to your vet before making a switch.
- Edible add-ins. You might also try adding a few tablespoons of unsweetened pumpkin to the food bowl. Pumpkin is a fantastic source of fiber and can help hairballs pass more easily. Combined with a natural lubricant like olive oil, and you have a double dose of healthy household ingredients you can add to your high-quality cat food.
- Entertainment. Cats typically spend about 50% of their waking hours grooming. However, if they’re under or over stimulated, grooming could become a means of self-soothing. Try introducing something new like a toy into their environment that will keep them occupied.
In the end, the occasional hairball can’t be completely avoided. But multiple in a day, constant constipation, frequent diarrhea, noticeable lethargy, or lack of appetite could be signs of a problem. If you suspect an internal blockage, please contact your vet immediately.