Cat Hairballs - Or, What Goes Down Must Come Up...

Mmmm...cat hairballs. So, you get out of bed on a dark morning and shuffle towards the bathroom. Your feet are dragging a bit on the floor. Then it happens - SQUISH! There is just nothing like a cold, damp cat hairball between the toes first thing in the morning to wake you up...!

All cats will get hairballs, both longhairs and shorthairs. However, there are ways to make them happen less often - so less clean up for you, less discomfort for them.

Cats get hairballs when they groom themselves. Their tongues have tiny "bristles" that face backwards, removing any loose hair as they wash. This means that they swallow the hair. When the hair builds up in the cat's digestive tract, one of two things needs to happen. If there is a lot of hair and it gathers in the stomach, the cat will vomit up the hairball. Sometimes the hairball moves beyond the stomach into the intestines and will come out with the cat's stool.

Cats eat grass as roughage - it helps them move any fur in the intestines out naturally. Indoor cats don't usually have access to grass, so you can try growing cat grass in a pot indoors for your cat to snack on when they feel the need. If you find that your cat has been nipping on your green house plants, this may do the trick.

Some cats develop hairballs more than others. Hairballs can be uncomfortable for your cat if they become constipated or are having an upset stomach from the hairball.

If you see your cat "heaving" or trying to vomit, keep an eye on them. Some vomiting is normal in cats, but if there are any unusual colour changes, if the vomiting continues over a period of time, or there are eating changes, contact your vet.

What is "normal" is different for every cat. Our black and white female cat Piglet requires vomiting three times per hairball. This is not bad, it's just what's normal for her. You will know if the frequency of cat vomiting changes.

There are also hairball remedies available in treat and paste form. Both come in a variety of flavours. You may have to experiment with more than one taste or brand to find one that your cat will like (or tolerate). I find we have fewer hairball problems when we use a combination of all three - cat grass, hairball treats and paste. The paste is a laxative to prevent constipation, while the treats help move the hair through the stomach. We don't give the paste every day though - overdoing any hairball remedy can lead to diarrhea.

We give the paste more often to our big fluffy longhair Drake and his best buddy Gus, who grooms him and then gets a double dose of fur.

The frequency of cat hairballs will also increase during shedding seasons (spring and fall), or if your cat is prone to stress licking (cat separation anxiety).


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