Most cat owners are familiar with the sight and sound of their cat trying to cough up a hairball. Hairballs are common but are a discomfort to cats and can even pose potential danger by blocking the passage of digested food through the intestines, causing an impaction.
What causes a hairball?
When a cat grooms itself, the tongue catches loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of the hair passes through the digestive system and out in the stool with no problems. But, if some hair stays in the stomach, it can eventually form a hairball. Ultimately, a cat will vomit the hairball to get rid of it.
Hairballs are most common in longhaired breeds. Cats that groom themselves compulsively are also more likely to have hairballs. As cats get older they become more adept groomers and therefore are more efficient at removing hair without ingesting it. Kittens do not typically have hairballs.
Symptoms of a cat with hairballs
The primary symptom is hacking, gagging and vomiting to remove the hairball. Owners will usually notice the accumulated hair in the vomit, but sometimes a hairball causes upset stomach and a cat will bring up just food or mucus.
If the following hairball symptoms are observed, contact a veterinarian, as these could indicate that a hairball has caused a potentially life-threatening blockage:
On-going vomiting, retching and hacking that does not produce a hairball
Lack of appetite
In rare cases, hairballs can get stuck in the esophagus or cause intestinal blockages that may require surgery to correct.
Tips for limiting hairballs
Brushing: By far, the best way to limit hairballs is to brush the cat. Brush longhaired cats daily to remove the hair that the cat would otherwise ingest by grooming itself. After the brushing, use a cloth to remove any loose hairs. Many cats like to be brushed and it’s an inexpensive way for owners to bond with a cat while reducing the incidence of hairballs.
Lubricant: Pet stores have commercial products to consider. Many are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass through the digestive tract. However, you don’t necessarily have to buy a hairball product to increase the fiber in a cat’s diet in order to move the hairballs through the system. Some owners add a teaspoon of canned pumpkin or squash to a cat’s daily diet. That method may be more cost effective as well.
Home remedies: Every couple of weeks feed a cat a spoonful of butter/margarine or a teaspoon of mineral oil to help hairballs pass as they occur.
Vaseline: A dab of petroleum jelly on a cat’s nose will deter it from licking and forming hairballs.
Provide a distraction: Pet toys or other activities may help to reduce a cat’s boredom or tendency to over-groom and develop hairballs.
As always, cat nutrition is an important key in making sure your pet's digestive system is healthy and the cat's diet is not deficient in necessary nutrients. At Hubbard Life, our nutritionists combine the highest quality ingredients to create a balanced, healthy food source. To learn about the Hubbard Life Cat Stars product, visit www.hubbardlife.com.
For more information about hairballs visit the website www.Vetinfo.com. Additional cat health tips can be found at the website www.WebMD.com.
Posted on 4/25/2012 by Amy Brown | Category: Cat
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