Hairballs in cats are an extremely common problem that many cat guardians have to try and deal with as best as possible. They can be caused by excess fur and too much grooming, and most of the time, they’re harmless, but they can also lead to certain health problems.
In this post, we’ll look at how to get rid of hairballs in cats, what preventing hairballs in cats entails, and we’ll also look at some frequently asked questions about cat hairballs.
Hairballs in cats – Symptoms of blockage
There are several signs of hairballs in cats, but the typical one that you will notice consists of vomiting. My own cat is pretty fluffy, and with the current situation (at the time I’m writing this, I couldn’t give her a haircut at a salon due to the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus), she has also been having hairball troubles.
Gagging, coughing, and vomiting are the first signs you’ll notice in a cat that has this issue. Most cats are capable of eliminating hairballs either through their mouths (through vomiting) or through their feces.
If a hairball causes an intestinal blockage (yes, that’s unfortunate but possible), the cat might also experience weight loss and lethargy.
So, in a nutshell, a cat who has developed hairballs might show the following symptoms:
- Coughing or gagging
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
It’s also not uncommon for a cat in this situation to show significant changes in the way that he/she digests food. At times the animal’s feces might be too soft, or there could be several days in which the cat doesn’t poop at all.
Therefore, most cats can have bouts of constipation or diarrhea if a hairball is partially blocking the passage of waste. If an obstruction is at the root of the problem, the cat’s belly might become extended, too, and her general health status will be affected. For example, she might not consume water, food, or groom herself at all.
How to treat hairballs in cats
If you take your cat to the vet’s office, depending on the location of the hairball, she might have to go through an enema, receive anti-spasmodic medication through an injection or orally, or she might have to be performed surgery on.
Surgery is, of course, the last solution on the table, but it should be considered if the cat is suffering from a dangerous obstruction. There is almost no way of eliminating the hairball if it has completely blocked the passage through your cat’s digestive tract — other than an operation.
Treatment for hairballs in cats at the vet clinic can set you back anywhere between 300 or 400 dollars if the cat doesn’t require surgery. On the other hand, if an operation is necessary, the cost might be a lot higher. Getting pet insurance might be a good idea, in this case.
Natural remedies for hairballs in cats
If you suspect that your cat might have problems with hairballs and you want to quickly solve the problem at home, you might want to try the following:
- Feed your cat specific hairball-prevention cat food and treats
- Give your cat a hairball gel
- Feed your cat a small amount of oil or butter
I would advise against giving your cat yogurt, even though people say that it contains probiotics, it’s healthy, and it promotes bowel movements. While that might be true in many animals and in humans, too, the fact is that most cats are lactose-intolerant.
As such, you might end up causing more problems than fixing the main one.
Prevent hairballs in cats with these methods
It’s quite likely that, if you have been a cat parent for a while, hairballs are something you have encountered in the past. While it is true that you can do your best when it comes to managing hairballs at home, it’s far easier to prevent this problem rather than have to treat it.
Feeding your cat a healthy diet, complete with digestive supplements (such as pre and probiotics), can be a great preventive measure. You can also ensure that your cat remains well-hydrated by opting for canned food instead of kibble.
If you have a long-hair breed, you should try to create a schedule and brush your pet’s fur as often as possible. As you know, cats have shedding periods throughout the year, and when spring comes along, you know you will deal with this problem.
Regularly grooming is the right way of going about things. Some say that cat grass is also capable of regulating a cat’s digestion, and it’s also a nice way of getting some extra fiber into your feline friend’s diet. So why not give it a go, too?
Frequently asked questions about hairballs in cats
What causes hairballs in cats?
Almost all cats develop hairballs at one point or the other, but there are some that are predisposed to it more than others. All long-hair breeds shed more, and they also end up swallowing a larger amount of hair when they groom.
If you have a Maine Coon, a Persian, or any other such breed, you should brush your cat more often.
How to treat hairballs in cats naturally?
We’ve already discussed some natural remedies, but I’d like to remind you them:
- Oil or butter (in very small quantities)
- Hairball-specific food
- Hairball gels
- Take your cat to a groomer to give her a haircut (I do this once a year right before shedding begins)
Hairball relief products are available in different forms, nowadays, including chews, for example. However, most pet parents find that hairball gels are easy to give to their feline companions if they apply them on their paws or on their noses – all cats want to be as clean as possible, after all, so they’ll lick the gel inadvertently.
What is not good for hairballs in cats?
Something that I would personally advise against would be to give your cat human medication for the intestinal spasm that you think she’s suffering from.
There are some drugs that work in this case, such as drotaverine (which is an antispasmodic medication), but it comes with a series of side effects. If this is a chronic issue for your cat, and it can be, especially in geriatric cats, have a talk with your veterinarian about what you should do.
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