If you have cats, you know that they get hairballs. While hairballs are natural for cats there are plenty of things you can do to help prevent them.
Read our Searcy, AR, veterinarian’s article to find out what you can do to help your cat with their hairballs.
What Is a Hairball?
A hairball is a ball or collection of hair that forms inside an animal or human. The clump of hair gets rejected by the body and can be vomited up. They are more common in cats because cats groom themselves using their tongues.
Can Hairballs Hurt My Cat?
Most hairballs are not a danger for cats. They are natural. However, if you see or hear your cat vomiting but no hairball comes out, call your veterinarian.
They may have some other type of problem making them vomit. They may also have the hairball stuck. A stuck hairball can cause breathing problems and worse if not fixed.
Other symptoms you should look out for are:
- An excessive amount of fur in your cat’s stool in the litterbox
- Loss of appetite
If you notice any of these symptoms, reach out to your veterinarian. They are all signs of larger issues that may or may not be related to hairballs. In addition, if the number of hairballs, the frequency of hairballs, the size of hairballs, or the frequency of grooming increases significantly, you may be dealing with a skin or health condition.
Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?
Hairballs are caused by the buildup of hair in a cat’s stomach or esophagus. The hair has to get out somehow. Depending on your cat they may expel the hair through the normal digestive tract.
Cat hair gets in the digestive tract from self-grooming. Since cats lick themselves to groom themselves, they can ingest the hair that is loose. This loose hair can turn into knots and balls in their digestive tract.
Cats with more fur, such as long-haired breeds, are more likely to get hairballs. The longer fur is harder to expel properly. Instead, it builds up and the cat vomits it up.
Warm weather can also affect your cat and their hairballs. In the warm weather cats will shed more fur. As they groom, they “eat” the fur and it collects.
There are three categories to explore when it comes to preventing hairballs. Doing one or more of these things can help your cat.
Grooming is the key to preventing hairballs. Even a short-haired cat will enjoy a good grooming session. There are a number of fun products available to help. Some of the most popular include cat brushes and the cat glove.
If you have a long-haired cat, you may want a professional to groom your cat every couple of months. In between grooming appointments, brush your cat’s fur daily. Collect all the fur and throw it away. You can also collect the fur and save it if you want to try turning it into yarn.
For cats with medium length fur, home grooming should be enough. Once again, you will want to use a brush daily or every other day. For short-haired cats, you can use a brush or the cat glove. The cat glove is fun, because it collects your cat’s fur while you are petting your cat. You will need to remove the fur every couple of strokes.
During shedding season, it is important to not only groom your cat, but to also collect any loose hair you find.
If your cat is still producing hairballs, even with daily brushing, consider trying a special formula cat food. There are cat foods formulated to help with hairballs. Food affects hairballs in more than one way.
First, be aware that a food allergy may be causing your cat to groom themselves more than necessary. This happens if the food allergy causes the cat’s skin to feel itchy or dry. In addition, a food allergy may cause a cat to shed more fur than normal.
Second, food formulated to prevent hairballs has extra fiber that can help your cat’s digestive system process and expel hair in the litterbox. Here are some veterinarian recommended brands:
- IAMS Proactive Health Adult Hairball Control Cat Food
- Purina One Hairball Formula
- Purina Pro Plan Indoor Care Adult Dry Cat Food
- Royal Canin Feline Intense Hairball
- Science Diet Adult Hairball Control
- Science Diet Adult Hairball Control Light
- Science Diet Adult 7+ Hairball Control
- Science Diet Adult Urinary Hairball Control
In order to see if a food is working, feed your cat exclusively that food for 8 weeks. If you notice a positive difference, keep using the food. If you notice no difference, try another food. If you notice a negative difference, such as things getting worse, talk to your veterinarian.
You may also be able to find cat treats that help with hairballs. Also, available are edible gels that can help. However, a better cat food diet is the first step, and these others are just supplements you can use.
Last, but certainly not least, there are cat shampoos. This step is more important for long-haired cats than any other.
Your cat may be reacting to an ingredient in a cat shampoo. This may be causing excessive shedding. If this is happening, switch shampoos.
You can find hairball prevention shampoos that you can use. Talk to your veterinarian about what shampoo they would recommend. You can also mention shampoo to your groomer and see if they have a recommendation.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do in the moment that your cat vomits up a hairball. However, there are a number of things you can do to prevent hairballs.
If your cat’s hairballs have changed in any way, then your veterinarian may want to run some tests to look for an underlying condition. Most of these conditions can be treated, so discovering them is important.
Reach Out to Our Searcy, AR, Veterinarian if Your Cat Is Having Problems with Hairballs
The best way to help your cat with their hairballs is to use a combination of hairball shampoos, diet, and grooming. While doing one of these things helps, doing all of them has a compounding effect that works better than doing any one or two of them.
Please reach out to our Searcy, AR, veterinarian if your cat seems to be having problems with hairballs by giving our animal clinic a call at (501) 268-5381.
Thank you for choosing Liles Animal Clinic as your pet's veterinarian in Searcy, AR. We are committed to providing exceptional veterinary care from your pet’s first days to their final moments. Our veterinary clinic facilities have been designed to assist us in providing routine preventive care for healthy pets, early detection diagnostics for aging pets, and complete medical and surgical care for pets at all life stages.