Owning a cat can bring many joys to you as its owner: delighted purring, a fuzzy companion to keep you company, and playful antics that keep you laughing. However, one of the not-so-pleasant aspects of cat ownership is dealing with hairballs. While these nasty, regurgitated balls of fur probably disgust you, what you may not know is that they can be harmful or even potentially fatal to your furry friend.
All cats get hairballs at one time or another, but long-haired cats are more at risk for developing digestive problems that may even turn deadly.
Larger hairballs might get lodged in the intestines, causing a blockage that might require surgery or even get caught in the cat’s throat as it tries to cough it up.
There are several symptoms that you can watch for in your cat that might indicate it’s having trouble.
The most obvious symptom that indicates your cat’s hairball is a gagging, retching noise that they make right before they expel it.
In most cases, they don’t need assistance in getting it up, but you should watch for any signs of blood of vomiting directly after.
Cats that have hair lodged into their intestines may have a poor appetite and trouble passing stool.
Long-haired cats are more prone to hairballs because of the amount of hair they ingest while grooming.
To help your cat take in less fur, make brushing a fun, relaxing activity for your cat so that you can bond with it and remove excess hair.
There are several indoor cat food formulas on the market that have ingredients to break down hair in the digestive tract so that hairballs form less often.
Indoor cats are more prone to hairballs because they groom more hours during the day, so feeding your cat this food may help. If you are unsure which food to use, consult your vet.
Pet stores often sell over-the-counter hairball remedies that allow hair to pass through your cat’s intestinal tract more easily.
Some can be added to your cat’s food so there is no struggle in getting him or her to take it. These laxatives are usually mild and have no side effects in otherwise healthy cats.
While all healthy cats groom themselves, others do so out of boredom. If you see your cat grooming in excess, distract it with a toy or extra attention.
The less it grooms itself to the extreme, the less of a change that hairballs can develop.
Your cat should have fresh water on a daily basis. Even if water looks clean, it may smell stale to the cat, which might lead to dehydration and a higher occurrence of hairballs.
The less a cat drinks and the more it grooms increases the chances for dangerously large hairballs to form, so your cat’s water dish should be washed and filled fresh each morning.