Cats are furry, lovable creatures that bring joy and comfort to many homes. But with their long, luxurious fur comes a not-so-lovely side effect—hairballs!
Hairballs occur when cats groom themselves, swallowing loose fur, which can cause digestive problems like vomiting or constipation.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to help prevent hairballs and keep your cat happy and healthy.
Read on to learn more about how to prevent cat hairballs.
How do hairballs form in cats?
Cats are fastidious groomers, spending around 10% of their waking hours licking and washing.
While cats have strong claws that can help remove dirt and debris from their fur, their saliva does the majority of the work in keeping them clean.
The problem is when cats groom themselves, and they also swallow a fair amount of loose fur, which can build up in their stomachs.
If this fur isn’t adequately digested, it will form a hard mass known as a hairball which can cause vomiting or constipation.
What are the symptoms of hairballs?
There are several tell-tale signs of hairballs. These includes:
Coughing and gagging
Coughing and gagging are one of the most common symptoms of hairballs. If your cat is hacking or retching, it may be trying to expel a hairball.
This can be accompanied by vomiting, which may contain fur, mucus, and other stomach contents.
Additionally, if your cat is having trouble passing a hairball, it may be constipated, which can cause them to strain and cry out in pain.
Vomiting is another sign of hairballs.
While some cats may be able to pass the hairball on their own, others may need intervention and treatment if the hairball is stuck in their gastrointestinal tract.
If your cat is frequently vomiting or retching, it’s important to take them to a vet for an examination.
Loss of appetite
If your cat is not eating or has a reduced appetite, it may be due to an underlying condition like hairballs.
If you notice changes in your cat’s appetite, make sure to contact your vet for an examination.
In some cases, cats that are suffering from hairballs can become lethargic and avoid their usual activities.
If your cat appears to be sleeping more than normal or not engaging in its usual playtime, it could be a sign of an underlying issue like hairballs.
Cats with hairballs may experience constipation, which can be painful and cause straining.
If you notice any signs of constipation (such as small amounts or no stools in the litter box), it’s important to take your cat to a vet immediately.
How Can You Prevent Hairballs?
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to help prevent hairballs. These include:
Regular grooming is essential for preventing hairballs in cats.
Brushing your cat’s fur will help remove loose fur that would otherwise be swallowed while they groom themselves.
This will reduce the amount of fur they ingest, which can help prevent the formation of hairballs.
Additionally, brushing also helps distribute natural oils throughout the coat and stimulates circulation, leading to a healthier and shinier coat.
Use of hairball remedies
Using a specialized hairball remedy can help reduce the amount of fur your cat swallows while grooming.
These products typically contain lubricants that help to coat the fur and make it easier for cats to pass any ingested fur through their digestive system.
Additionally, many hairball remedies contain fiber to help regulate your cat’s digestion and keep them regular.
Feed a high-fiber diet
Feeding your cat a high-fiber diet can help prevent constipation, which is a common symptom of hairballs.
High-fiber diets help to regulate digestion, which can make the passage of fur smoother and less painful for cats.
Additionally, fiber helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, which is essential for overall health.
Limit human food
Avoiding giving your cat too many treats or human foods can help reduce the chances of hairballs.
While some people’s food may be beneficial to cats, too much can lead to digestive issues and an increased risk of hairballs.
It’s best to stick with a balanced diet that consists primarily of cat food formulated specifically for their needs.
Provide plenty of water
Cats need plenty of clean and fresh water to keep their bodies hydrated.
This is especially important for cats that are prone to hairballs, as proper hydration can help make the passage of fur smoother.
Additionally, providing your cat with plenty of water sources around the house can encourage them to drink more and reduce the risk of dehydration.
There are several dietary supplements that can help reduce the risk of hairballs.
These products typically contain ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to promote a healthy coat and reduce shedding.
Additionally, some supplements contain lubricants to make it easier for cats to pass fur through their digestive system and fiber to help with regularity and digestion.
Talk to your vet about which product may be best for your cat.
Offer toys & entertainment
Providing your cat with plenty of fun and engaging toys can help prevent hairballs.
This is because interactive toys give cats something to focus on other than licking and grooming themselves, which reduces the amount of fur they ingest.
Additionally, playing with toys helps to stimulate their bodies and minds, leading to a happier and healthier life.
Overall, taking the time to properly care for your cat can help reduce the risk of hairballs.
Regular grooming, a high-fiber diet, and plenty of water will all contribute to a healthier and happier life for your furry friend.
Additionally, you may want to consider using specialized hairball remedies or dietary supplements designed specifically for cats with hairballs.
With the right care and attention, you can help your cat lead a long and healthy life free from hairballs.