All cats experience hairballs, except perhaps, the Sphynx cat. The culprit, their prickly tongue. All cats groom themselves, cats that shed a lot or who groom themselves compulsively are more likely to have hairballs. Hairballs occur as a result of your cat grooming which forces any ingested hair down a one-way street into their stomach. The cat’s digestive system is normally able to handle the hair and it simply passes through the intestinal tract and out in the feces. But over-time, some of these hairs remains in the stomach and gradually accumulates into a wet clump rather than passing through the intestinal tract, these accumulated hair is vomited out by the cat instead.
The typical cat regurgitation of a hairball involves two spurts – one a little drab of liquid, and the other, a wad of hair in a larger puddle of liquid. As long as the wad has come out, your cat is fine. She will not have lost her appetite, and you do not have to give her any medicine or take her to the vet. To minimize and possibly prevent the development of hairballs and their complications, you will need to step up your grooming of her or feed her a hairball remedy once or twice a week to prevent most future problems.
But if hairballs seem to be a regular occurrence in your home, despite regular grooming, and especially if your cat tends to be constipated (look for hard, small stools), she may need a touch more lubricant and/ or roughage added to her diet.
This can take the form of:
- Hairball-remedy food (check cat food labels)
- A little bit of vegetable oil (such as olive oil) mixed into her food
- A commercially prepared hairball preventive that often comes as a gel in a tube or as crystals that you can sprinkle on food. If the product contains mineral oil, be sure to give Kitty a vitamin supplement, because mineral oil can deplete her body of vitamin A.
- A half spoonful of finely grated or cooked, pureed raw carrot or cooked, pureed sweet potato, pumpkin, or winter squash. For convenience, look for a jarred baby food version of this that is pure vegetable without any added salt or garlic; you only need a little bit at a time, so freeze it in spoonful-size dabs on a sheet of waxed paper and then store in an airtight container in the freezer (thaw before giving to Kitty).
- Cat grass (wheatgrass or other grass; avoid giving Kitty alfalfa or other sprouts)
- A pinch of ground psyllium mixed into the cat’s food daily
Being aware and monitoring the behavior to see and able to tell whether their cat’s hairballs are routine or no laughing matter. If your cat has stopped eating and is severely constipated, she may have developed a hairball that has gotten too stuck to vomit out. Rarely, a hairball can grow large enough to be life-threatening and require surgical removal. Obviously, prevention is key to keeping Kitty in tip-top form, particularly if she belongs to long-haired breeds, such as Persians and Maine Coons..