Horrendous hacking in the next room goes unchecked as your cats spits up yet another hairball.

You’ve almost learned to tune it out but the aggressive offending nature of the sound and sight is still too much to completely ignore. That’s good – you shouldn’t ignore it! Contrary to what many cat owners and even some vets will tell you, frequent hairballs are not normal – they are concerning!

What Are Hairballs?

Coughing up a hairball is different than just “cat throw up.” Read more about why cats vomit here. Hairballs are another matter. The little barbs on cats’ tongues are perfect for excellent grooming, but they are also fantastic little brushes for pulling out loose hair. Grooming is how cats keep themselves clean, and it’s also a self-calming or soothing technique. These loose hairs that are caught and swallowed should proceed unprocessed through your cat’s gastrointestinal system and pass easily in his stool.

Sometimes, however, the ingested hair is not passed along properly and instead forms a slimy wad in your cat’s stomach. These hairballs form either because the cat’s digestive system is having trouble sending the hair along or because it’s taking on so much excessive fur that the system is overloaded. The only form of relief for your poor kitty is to regurgitate this furry mass. Disgusting? We know!

How Many Hairballs Are Normal?

Vets and feline experts disagree among themselves about a safe average number of hairballs a cat produces regularly. Some claim a hairball per week or two is perfectly acceptable, while others maintain that even long-haired breeds should hack up less than a hairball or two per year! If your sweet feline is struggling with hairballs once a week or more frequently, please consult your veterinarian soon.

What Causes Hairballs?

Excessive shedding is a primary cause of hairballs. Simply put, if your cat is losing her fur, she will be ingesting a greater amount of fur during grooming than she should, especially if your kitty is of a long-haired variety. This fur loss could stem from allergies or a poor diet.

Excessive grooming can also contribute to hairballs since behavioral issues (like stress) or neurological conditions can provoke your cat to groom themselves too vigorously, and too frequently. Over-grooming may be rooted in skin issues as well; itchy skin could be prompting your feline to over-lick or even bite themselves.

Gut motility is certainly another factor to consider; an off-balanced digestive system could prevent your cat from passing the hairs properly, leading to a need to regurgitate these slimy wads.

Safe Solutions for Hairballs

Before proceeding with any kind of treatment, please consult your vet. Avoid any hairball “remedies” which may contain harmful ingredients like petrol. Instead, try healthier approaches like these:

  • An improved diet: a meat-based diet without grain can greatly improve your cat’s gut health and motility. Increase your pet’s overall wellness with better nutrition and watch as skin issues and digestive concerns steadily get better. Do ask your vet before switching foods and always be sure to make the transition slowly – a hard start on a new diet can cause digestive upsets leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Fresh water: sweet and spunky felines need 24/7 access to fresh water. If your sassy kitty seems uninterested in their bowl of water, try adding a bit of warm water to their food to increase hydration or consider investing in a pet fountain. Many cats are fascinated by running water and are much more likely to drink it as opposed to still water.
  • Regular grooming: keeping up to date with your cat’s nail and fur-trim appointments will keep him more than handsome – it will keep him happy and healthy! Matted fur can aggravate your sweet pet and drive him into a fur-cleaning frenzy, leading to hairballs. Keep him looking the best-looking boy and he won’t feel the need to frantically groom himself anytime he itches.
  • Supplements: ask your vet about supplements for your cat’s wellness. While nutrition should be the primary approach, certain all-natural supplements can increase your cat’s skin and coat health. This will help reduce her shedding and consequently the amount of fur she ingests. Supplements can also work to balance out her internal digestive system. Either way, tackle the problem at the root instead of merely trying to alter the symptoms.

The occasional hairball is probably fine, but if you hear more hacking than seems necessary, please make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Say goodbye to hacking and say hello to healthy and happy – thanks to Kansas City’s Best Pet Shop! For more questions, please drop by the Barkery or contact us online today! We can’t wait to help your furry little pal look – and feel – so much better!