Hairballs and Cats – Symptoms and Solutions to the Problem

Hairballs and Cats – Symptoms and Solutions to the Problem

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know the hairball struggle is real.  Because cats are very clean animals, they like to groom themselves.  As a result, residual hair remains on the rough surface of the tongue and is swallowed by your cat.  Though your cat’s body was designed to properly dispose of hair through elimination, sometimes your cat removes the hair from its system in an entirely different manner—through vomiting.  As an experienced cat owner, you know the sound well!  “Coughing up hairballs” is unpleasant for both you and your cat.  Is there a solution to help your cat eliminate hairballs in an effective and healthy way? 

Symptoms of Hairballs

Some cats are more prone to problems with hairballs than others.  It is an issue that particularly plagues cats with long hair as well as cats who take great pride in more frequent grooming sessions. When hair continues to accumulate in your cat’s tummy, it begins to form a tightly woven structure that is too large and dense to be eliminated via defecation.  Your cat then has no choice but to vomit it to obtain relief.

Because hairballs can lead to more serious health issues for your cat, it is important for you to be able to recognize the signs that your cat may require some owner assistance in preventing hair buildup in their stomach or even removing a hairball which is resistant to elimination via vomiting or defecating.

Among the symptoms, cats struggling with hairballs can exhibit are:

  • Regurgitation noises
  • Unproductive attempts at vomiting
  • Lack of desire to eat
  • Body wasting
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to defecate
  • Diarrhea

While any one of these symptoms on their own may remedy itself in time, it is important that you monitor your cat carefully.  Should your cat be suffering from one or more of the above signs, it is critical that you seek veterinary care as soon as possible.  Your cat may be suffering from a serious intestinal blockage.  When things advance to this stage, it will not resolve on its own and requires immediate medical intervention.

Solutions for Hairballs

As with most issues that trouble our pets, the best solution to hairballs is prevention.  Thankfully, there are a number of things that pet owners can do to help reduce the frequency of this problem.

  • Regular grooming

Though cats do take the job of grooming themselves very seriously, your cat might benefit from you assuming some of the responsibility yourself.  Taking the time to brush your cat on a consistent basis can remove some of the excess hair that would normally build up on your cat’s tongue, and later, in her stomach.  By choosing to take a proactive approach to hair shedding, any hair that normally would have been loose will already have been removed during your grooming time; thus eliminating the opportunity for hairballs to form.  Your cat can still enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of grooming without the fear of hair buildup in their intestines.

  • Grain free pet foods

Recent research shows that many cats can reduce and even eradicate hairballs through regularly ingesting a grain free diet.  Veterinarians suggest that cats’ digestive systems are not equipped to properly break down grain products into a usable energy source.  Many experts believe that the true reason behind frequent vomiting is a combination of things; most likely hair accumulation coupled with a diet rich in materials that cats cannot properly digest.  A switch to a diet based primarily on higher protein levels and without grains may be a help in eliminating hairball issues for your cat.

  • Consistent veterinary examinations

Regular veterinary examinations can help prevent a problem before it happens. If your cat is suffering from some sort of obstruction, a thorough palpation of the belly can reveal this to your veterinarian, so your cat can be properly treated.

Your veterinarian can also prescribe medication which will aid in the proper elimination of hairballs if necessary.

  • Mentally stimulating toys

Often cats will engage in excessive grooming simply because they are bored.  While you don’t want to discourage a behavior so deeply ingrained in your cat, maybe slowing down its frequency a bit will aid in the buildup of hairballs.

Providing toys for your cat that are engaging will help reduce the amount of grooming.  Keeping your cat’s mind actively involved is half the battle.  Cats are smart, and if they don’t find something to hold their attention, they will resort to habitual behaviors like grooming to fill the void.  Your local pet store should have a great selection of different toys you can select for your cat.  Opt to buy several as variety is also key to keeping your cat interested.

  • Commercial cat food formulations

There are many commercial cat food formulations available on the market today.  Many of these came into being as a response to hairball-related problems. These foods work in a number of ways to help prevent hair accumulation in your pet’s system.

Most of these diets generally focus on high fiber ingredients.  These types of ingredients help to keep your cat’s bowels moving on a consistent basis to ensure proper digestive health.

In addition to this, these foods aim to improve the overall quality of your cat’s coat, thereby reducing the amount of shedding your cat does. Less shedding equates to less ingested hair.  Theoretically, this should greatly reduce or even eliminate the problem of hairballs in your cat.

Hairballs can be a real problem.  While it is unpalatable to listen to Frisky retching away several times a day, hairball issues can lead to far more serious complications if a proactive approach is not taken to eliminate them.  Thankfully, by following some of these tips, you can help Frisky to enjoy her grooming time without starting a little hair museum in her stomach!

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