How to prevent hairballs

Cats groom themselves, it’s a fact.
They are also prone to hairballs, that too is a fact.

But why does it happen? What can we do to prevent it?
And what are the dangers when they are ignored?

Why does my cat get hairballs?

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When a cat grooms themselves, their rough tongue picks up some of the loose fur which they then swallow.

In proportion, the amount of hair they swallow is minimal and can mostly pass out naturally and without any issues.

However, in some cases the hair can form a knot in the stomach which creates a hairball. They can become quite firm and in cases cause a blockage in the digestive tract, though most of the time they are regurgitated without any harm to your cat.

How we can prevent it?

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Most of the time, a hairball won’t cause any problems and a cat is perfectly fine managing their own, but there are ways in which we can help our furry friends reduce the amount they regurgitate. This can be done by:

  • Brushing
    It’s important to brush long haired cats a few times a week Removing loose and dead fur from your cat’s coat before it is ingested is the best way to prevent a hairball forming.
  • Discourage excessive grooming
    Sometimes your cat will over-groom as a prevention for boredom, to combat this increase your interactive playtime and draw their interest away from grooming. An interactive toy such as the FroliCat® CHATTER™ can be played with whilst you’re not around thanks to its ‘Play while you’re away’ mode.
  • Keep them active
    Regular exercise encourages a healthy digestive system, helping hair move through the system without creating clumps.
  • Remedies
    There are certain gels and pastes available which include a lubricant such as petroleum jelly to help move hair more easily. Always check with your vet before administering the product.
  • Specific diet
    Formulated to treat hairballs, certain cat foods have a high fibre content and include enzymes designed to breakdown hair. Be sure to check with your vet before adapting your cat’s diet.
  • Plenty of water
    Dehydration can affect the digestive system and make it harder to move through the body. Providing fresh and clean water for your cat every day encourages a higher consumption and a healthier digestive system.

The dangers of hairballs

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Occasionally a hairball may get stuck in the digestive system either in the stomach or throat causing a blockage. Symptoms of a serious hairball appear in the form of:

  • Persistent vomiting, retching or coughing without a hairball coming up
  • Constipation and swollen abdomen
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy and unwillingness to move about much

In some cases, a lodged hairball may require surgery to correct, so if you witness any of the above behaviours in your cat it’s best to book to see your vet as soon as possible.

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