Why Do Cats Groom Themselves
Cats groom for an almost endless list of reasons, such as:
- Building companionship within their pride
- Keeping their coat sleek and aerodynamic for hunting
- Regulating body temperature by removing insulating dead fur
- Removing dirt and debris that may irritate their skin or pull at fur
- Dislodging parasites such as fleas, flea dirt, ticks, and mites
- Self-soothing and stress relief
Even if pet parents take the time to groom their cat with an external tool , theyll still naturally groom themselves. Its a habit thats ingrained in their genetics as much as chasing bugs and mice, as well as a way to demonstrate their emotions. Depending on a cats temperament, owners may have seen him:
- Lazily groom a paw as hes relaxing on the couch
- Angrily groom his body where a person has touched him
Feline folks may have also noticed their pet excitedly lick at the air, the couch, their arm, or anything in reach when his back is scratched just above the tail. This is actually an intriguing nerve cluster-behavior connection some cat behaviorists call the lick spot. While its not yet completely understood, its thought to be a leftover instinctual reaction from kittenhood. This back spot is a place where a mother cat would lick and groom while her kittens were feeding to encourage them to eat hence the frantic licking.
Whyyou Should Take Care Of Hairballs In Cats
Unfortunately for cats, hairballs are unpleasant and can cause discomfort which may result in different behaviours to usual. Hairballs can be formed when your cat swallows hair during grooming and it accumulate sin the stomach and wont pass through to the next part of the digestive system. To support being able to relieve themselves of their hairball, our cat hairball treatments has been designed to help your cat pass a hairball and makes the process easier, quicker, and cleaner for your cat. Hairballs can cause intestinal blockages and many other digestives or respiratory issues which can be easily avoidable. Sometimes your cat cant cough up a hairball, so they are crucial to remove and should be routinely checked for when caring for your cat.
Dont Ignore Cat Hairballs
Something to keep in mind: cat hairballs are not normal.
Although it is normal for a cat to ingest some hair while self-grooming, in a healthy cat, the hair should pass through the digestive tract and be expelled from the body in the stool. Cats that bring up hairballs more than once or twice a year should be examined by your veterinarian.
Cats that experience recurring hairballs require some lifestyle changes to reduce the incidence of hairballs or diagnostics to find the cause of the hairballs.
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Treatment For Cats With Hairballs
There are a number of cat hairball remedies. Most of them are petroleum-based and essentially attempt to lubricate the hairball, making it easier for your cat to pass it through the intestinal tract as feces. These work for some cats with hairballs.
There are also a number of types of commercial cat food that are marketed to help prevent and/or control hairballs. Most of these diets feature a high volume of fiber and work on the assumption that the fiber helps keep the gastrointestinal tract moving normally. These may work for some cats but are not effective in all cases.
For those cats with frequent hairballs or who have difficulty expelling them, your veterinarian may recommend prescription food additives or prescription digestive support for cats.
If other underlying diseases such as parasites, inflammatory bowel disease or bacterial overgrowth are diagnosed, appropriate treatment should be instituted.
Feline Hairball Facts: Kitties Cant Help It
While some cats may seem to plot certain mischievous behaviors such as pushing his humans belongings off a table edge, for instance hairballs are not premeditated. He genuinely cant help his hairballs any more than a person can avoid the urge to clear his or her throat when feeling congested. For anyone whos ever cleaned out a hairbrush or looked down at the sink after shaving, its not strange to note quite a bit of hair or stubble left behind. Cats dont have the benefit of grooming tools, and instead must rely upon their tongues and paws to keep their coat sleek, shiny, and free of debris.
A cat feels a natural instinct to groom himself, whether its habitually, in an attempt to get debris out of his fur, or after a meal to clean up. Its as normal to him as brushing ones hair or teeth would be to his human counterparts, and hairballs are simply a way of life for him. In fact, watch his behavior directly after coughing up a hairball hell likely seem perfectly fine, and might even act more energetic. He may even take off at a breakneck pace to zoom around the house this is a latent instinctual behavior thought to separate a cat from biological evidence of his presence, thus keeping him safe from predator discovery. Incidentally, this same reasoning explains the occasional speed-racing through the halls immediately after he has used the litterbox.
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What To Consider When Choosing Hairball Treatments
If your cat is throwing up hairballs, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who can recommend which hairball remedies might be appropriate for your cat.
“We simply recommend choosing the remedy that the cat is most likely to accept and eat,” Dr. Whittenburg says. “Some cats refuse the treats. Some cats don’t like the gel. Some cats won’t eat the food, or have medical conditions requiring a different diet. All the remedies are similar, but the delivery method is different.”
It might take some trial and error to find out which hairball remedy works best for your cat. Dr. Harper says it’s possible to overdo it with hairball remedies, and recommends trying one remedy at a time. “It could turn into a situation where the cat is not vomiting up hairballs, but it’s vomiting up everything else,” he says. “One thing at a time would be sufficient to see what works best, otherwise you won’t know.”
If the hairball remedies you are using don’t seem to be helping, it’s time to go back to the vet for follow up. “More diagnostics need to be performed to rule out more serious gastrointestinal issues,” Dr. Whittenburg says.
The Best Thing You Can Do To Help Your Cat
When it comes to preventing hairballs in cats, the best thing you can do is brush your cat regularly and take them to the vet for a full checkup. Your veterinarian will always advise you in the right direction and rule out any underlying medical issues. This is the right thing to do.
Do not attempt to give your cat olive oil or follow unproven remedies that you read online. Treating hairballs at home is a big no-no. Although you may find some success with remedying the issues, you certainly want to rule out any other health problems with proper blood work and chemistries . Best of luck and share your story below.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the authors knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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Brush Your Cat To Remove Excess Hair
Perhaps the most obvious and natural solution to hairball problems is to make sure there is less loose hair on your cat for them to ingest. Especially if you have a long-haired cat, regular brushing and grooming help is a necessity.
Establishing a grooming routine with your cat early in their life is wise. The more you can show them how beneficial your ministrations are, the more likely they are to allow it! If your cat does not sit still for long enough to be groomed, try enticing them with treats to stick around for a good brushing.
Can A Hairball Kill A Cat
Yes, they can kill cats if they pass into the small intestine and become lodged. Dr. Richard Goldstein of Cornell, explains:
This is uncommon, he notes, but it is very serious when it does occur. Without surgical intervention, it can be fatal.
If a trichobezoargets to be large enough, it can indeed cause health problems in your cat. If it gets to be too big, your cat won’t be able to expel it nor pass it in the GI tract. This can cause a cat to stop eating, act lethargic, or be depressed. In addition, a blockage can cause the tissues in the digestive tracts to become necrotic. Otherwise termed an impactionimpactions require veterinary care and treatment. If the impaction goes on for too long, your cat may require emergency surgery.
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What Else We Considered
Cat Lax Cat Supplement: Cat Lax uses two lubricants to move hairballs through your cat’s digestive tract. Unlike Tomlyn Laxatone Hairball Remedy for Cats, it does not carry the National Animal Supplement Council seal.
PetAg Hairball Natural Solution Chicken Flavored Hairball Control Gel for Cats: This petroleum-free hairball gel uses one lubricating ingredient . Our pick Nutri-Vet Hairball Paw Gel uses three non-petroleum ingredients to help move hair through a cat’s digestive tract.
Hartz Hairball Remedy Plus Savory Chicken Flavor Soft Chews: These treats contain fiber to support digestion and prevent or eliminate hairballs. Unlike Feline Greenies Hairball Control Smartbites, they do not contain a lubricating ingredient in addition to the fiber.
VetriScience Hairball Chews: These soft chews contain only fiber to support digestion and prevent hairballs. Our pick Vet’s Best Hairball Relief Digestive Aid supplements contain fiber plus plant-based ingredients to support digestion and prevent hairballs.
Zesty Paws Core Elements Hairball Salmon Flavored Soft Chews Hairball Control for Cats: These chews contain both fiber and lubricants to support digestion and prevent or eliminate hairballs. However, an abundance of user reviews across several platforms report that many cats do not like the taste and will not eat them.
Are Hairballs Dangerous To Cats
There are some insidious signs that your cat is having difficulty with a hairball and may need medical attention. While hairballs typically pass, its possible for them to become so large they lodge in your cats digestive tract and cause a blockage.
If you notice any of the following signs in your cat, its time to skip the home remedies and head straight to your veterinarian:
- Continuous hacking or retching without producing a hairball
- Changes in digestion, such as diarrhea, constipation, or lack of appetite
- A swollen or hard belly
However, if your cat is getting hairballs and has no trouble expelling them, there are things you can do at home to minimize their frequency and make it easier for your cat to pass them when they do occur.
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Potential Causes For Hairballs In Cats
It is important to note that cats are somewhat designed to consume hair as they groom themselves, each other and through the ingestion of small furry creatures such as mice. So why do some cats vomit hairballs and some cats do not? Your veterinarian should ask you detailed questions in regards to the health of your cat to obtain more information. For example, cats that have anxiety, allergies and or even fleas may appear to be “over-grooming” and therefore ingesting more hair than usual and this can contribute to your cat throwing up more hairballs than usual. Also, cats that have intestinal disease (Inflammatory bowel disease/IBD, intestinal cancer, esophageal disease, and others will often cause an increase rate of hairballs in cats.
So, when should an owner be concerned about the amount of hairballs their cat is vomiting? Well, every cat is different but generally speaking, if your cat is vomiting 1 hairball per month it is usually not a concern but you should bring this to the attention of your veterinarian.
Treatments For Cat Hairball Blockage
Cat hairballs are a common byproduct of your cats fastidious self-grooming. In many cases, the hairballs do not cause the cat seriousharm, but sometimes they cause blockages in your cats digestive system. Lets look at the treatment options that are available when yourcat suffers a hairball blockage.
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Add Fiber To Your Cats Diet
Although cats are obligate carnivores and typically dont need plant fiber, adding some extra fiber to your pets diet can help move things through the digestive tract more efficiently. Some good sources of fiber for cats include pumpkin, carrots, apples, or cat grass.Take note, however, that too much fiber intake can lead to some side effects.Thus, its highly recommended that you talk to your vet before starting your cat on anything. A study that evaluated the effects of adding sugarcane fiber to kibble diets of cats concerning hairball fecal transmission showed that the diet in which sugarcane fiber has been added reduced hairball elimination in the feces of cats.
When To See A Vet
While you might not need to worry about the occasional hairball, there are some instances in which you should see your vet. Its rare, but hairballs can grow so large that your cat cant pass them, or they can get lodged in the digestive tract, creating a blockage. If the hairball is too large, surgery may be required to remove it.
You should see your vet right away if your cat:
- Tries to vomit but cant get anything out
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Start With Brushing The Coat Regularly
This might sound like a bit of simple advice, but it doesnt hurt to reconsider your current grooming regime. Are you brushing your cat enough yourself or relying on them to do the hard work? The more dead hairs that you brush out, the fewer that will end up in your cats stomach. You can invest in a good brush or mitt to make things easier and improve the bonding experience with your cat. Make sure to dispose of as much hair as possible afterwards.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Having Hairballs
There is no magic cure for hairballs, per se, but there are a few ways fur pet parents can save their carpet from constant assault by feline gastric projectiles. The first step is reducing the amount of overall stray hair on ones cat. By removing his dead fur and debris before he needs to, it wont end up in his stomach to make a hairball. There are several easy steps you can take to make this happen:
- Brush him: Not every cat is thrilled about this tactic, so its success will depend largely on the individual cats attitude towards his humans grooming skills. Use a rubber-bristled brush and a gentle hand, and always stroke with the cats fur, not against it. Periodically remove the fur from the brush, and pause or stop if he starts lashing his tail or displaying other signs of irritation.
- Vacuum furniture and carpets frequently: Just because a cat has shed the fur from his body doesnt mean its necessarily gone for good. Soft areas like a favorite couch cushion, a cat tree perch, or a soft pet bed are notorious for accumulating fur. This stray fur ends up getting tangled back in a cats still-attached fur, and ingested during grooming anyway. Experts recommend using a fur-targeting vacuum attachment to whisk fur off of these frequented surfaces it not only aids in the removal of pet hair and dander from the home, but helps cats avoid hairballs.
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Symptoms & Treatment Of Hairballs In Cats
As noted earlier, youll occasionally hear your furry friend hacking or gagging, or even witness them vomiting up the offending hairball. Sometimes, you may find that your kitty has only thrown up food or mucus, but an un-produced hairball might be at the root of the problem.
If you notice these symptoms, you can try a hairball remedy with your vets advice. Lubricants and jellies, commonly available at pet supply stores, will help them pass the hairball or cough it up. Directions for the products differ, so read the labels carefully and talk to your vet about which products might be right for your cat.
A periodic hairball isnt a big deal, but if its happening a few times a week, it might require more aggressive prevention tactics to get them under control. Hairballs can become lodged in a cats esophagus or intestinal tract, which can even be fatal.
Serious hacking for more than a day can be a sign that its developing into a major complication. Be on the lookout for reduced appetite, lethargy, and constipation or diarrhea.
If you notice these symptoms, see a veterinarian immediately. Though rare, some severe cases may require surgery.
If your cat is developing hairballs due to excessive grooming, your vet will be able to give you advice for treating any underlying conditions.
Do All Cats Develop Hairballs
As you can guess, long-haired breeds like Persians have the greatest tendency toward hairballs, though any cats can develop them because every cat sheds. The risk is that the hairball can create an internal blockage and require emergency surgery. Far better to practice preventive maintenance such as regular grooming than to risk your cat’s health!
It also turns out there are other symptoms than the semi-routine retching you may have encountered. Any of these are definitely reasons to make an appointment with your veterinarian to discover the source of the problem.
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