Has your cat been coughing and hacking? If so, he may have hairballs. If you see disgusting skinny oval blobs on the floor, you will know that your cat has managed to dislodge one of his hairballs.
What exactly is a hairball? It is a mass of hair and food that did not digest that forms inside a cat’s body. Loose hair that collects on his tongue when he grooms himself. For some reason, the hair comes together and forms a ball in his stomach instead of simply passing through his body. Since these hairballs aren’t able to break down and be digested, cats often cough them up to get rid of them.
While most cats don’t have a problem with dislodging hairballs, they can occasionally pass into a cat’s intestines and cause a blockage. This can be a life threatening problem. There are a few signs you should look for to find out if your cat’s hairball is dangerous. If your cat seems to be constipated, he may be experiencing a small blockage. If he seems lethargic and his coat is dull and unhealthy looking, or he is eating less than usual, then he may have a serious blockage. Either way, you should take him to your veterinarian to be sure a hairball is the problem and to have it removed.
Of course, it is much better to prevent hairballs than to treat them after they have formed. One of the easiest ways to keep your cat from developing a hairball is to groom him frequently, especially if he has long hair. Thoroughly comb or brush his hair each day to remove excess hair. If you begin this routine when he is a kitten, he will actually look forward to being groomed. In fact, some cats will even bring their combs to their owners so that they can be groomed. If your cat doesn’t care for brushes and combs, try a grooming glove, instead.
If your cat still seems to form occasional hairballs, there are several dietary aids that you can try. One of these aids is dry cat food that was developed to help prevent hairballs. However, don’t just buy the first bag of hairball formula cat food you see. Be sure that it is high in protein and other nutrients, as well. If your cat already has a hairball, you may want to shop for a gel that can be added to his food that will help the hairball pass through his body. This gel is actually a lubricant. Talk to your veterinarian before using one of these hairball remedies for a long period of time, as they can end up removing important vitamins and minerals along with hairballs.
Finally, some people have their own remedies and recipes for removing hairballs. Before using folk remedies to treat your cat, please consult with your veterinarian to be sure you aren’t unintentionally causing harm to some other part of your cat’s body. A few common folk remedies are butter, mineral oil, and pumpkin.