Pet Tips

Tip 69 – Hairballs in cats – cat has hairballs – treating a hairball problem

Hairballs (trichobezoars) are balls of hair that end up in a cat’s stomach when the cat licks its fur as part of its regular grooming routine. Since cats spend about 10% of their waking hours grooming themselves primarily by licking their fur clean, hairballs in cats can be a very common occurrence. Many cats have no problem with hairballs whatsoever. Sometimes though, especially in long-haired cats, hairballs can cause your cat to engage in gagging or retching in an attempt to vomit up the hairball. The cat may or may not actually vomit. On occasion you can actually see the balls of hair in the vomit, but sometimes the hairball will just upset the stomach and the cat will bring up food or liquid and not the hairball itself. Occasional hairball episodes (1-4 times a month) are normal for most cats and usually prevention is the best treatment. If your cat is vomiting more than this, or if the cat recently starting vomiting more than usual or the cat is vomiting repeatedly, then this can be a sign of a completely unrelated medical problem and the cat should see a vet. In fact the individual cat owner should bring their cat to a vet whenever their cat exhibits unusual behaviour that involves vomiting.

The best treatment for hairballs in cats is the prevention of hair buildup in the first place. This can easily be accomplished with daily brushings of your cat’s fur. Less loose fur on the cat equals less fur in its stomach. This brushing should become part of a daily routine when you first get the cat and most cats simply love it. Besides the grooming benefits to the cat, daily brushing can increase the bond between human and cat. If daily brushings aren’t working then other treatments for cats with hairball problems can include a cat food with a hairball control component (usually extra fibre). You can even try a teaspoon of canned pumpkin mixed in with their regular food or mixed with some tuna water from the can. There are also petroleum based laxative type medications that you can put on you cat’s paw and it will lick it off. These medications should only be used as directed.

Note: Any hairball problem that cannot be solved with extra daily brushings should be referred to a veterinarian. Cats vomit for different reasons, sometimes extremely serious reasons, and you should not automatically assume that the vomiting is hairball related.

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