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Cats, grooming and hairballs

Hairballs and Your Cat


  Author,  Professional Pet Sitting Etc.

If you share your home with a feline friend, you’ve likely seen your fair share of hairballs. Sure, they may look disgusting and unpleasant to clean up, but have you ever wondered whether they are normal, and what you can do to prevent your cat from leaving them like little surprise presents around your house?


The Creation of a Hairball


So, you know how the texture of your cat’s tongue resembles sandpaper? That texture is actually backward facing barbs on the tongue that resemble tiny hook-like structures. Those structures trap loose hairs when your cat is grooming, with the hair being swallowed and passed through the digestive tract, then being disposed of in your cat’s litter box. However, cats with long, thick coats of hair, or those who groom excessively, can experience an overabundance of swallowed hair that does not always make its way to the digestive tract. Instead, it can collect in the cat’s stomach, forming a hairball. Ultimately, your cat will vomit the hairball. 


Hairball Prevention


  1. Sure, your cat is an avid self-groomer, but as gung-ho as she may be about keeping groomed and clean, the truth is she can still use a bit of help from you. Regular brushing offers the benefit of dead hair removal, which aids in the reduction of hairballs. Always brush in the direction that the hair lays naturally, never against the ‘grain.’ Brushing twice a week should be plenty for most short-haired cats, while a long-haired cat may need to be brushed every day.
  2. “Hairball Formula” cat food. Many pet food manufacturers make high-fiber formula foods designed to improve the health of your cat’s coat, minimize shedding, and encourage hairballs to pass through the digestive system rather than collect in the stomach.
  3. Hairball products. While there are many hairball products available (most of which are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass through your cat’s digestive tract), there are also many natural remedies.
    1. Canned natural pumpkin provides an excellent source of fiber which helps move excess hair in the stomach through the digestive system.
    2. Giving your kitty some small pieces of apple, sweet potatoes or carrots is another source of healthy, all-natural fiber that will help move the hair through your cat’s digestive system.
    3. Coconut oil can help manage your cat’s icky hairballs by improving her digestion. Just add ½ a teaspoon of coconut oil per five pounds of body weight to your cat’s food for results.


The occasional hairball is normal, but if your cat is hacking up hairballs more than a few times per month you should visit your veterinarian as there may be an underlying cause, such as a food intolerance, skin disease, chronic gastrointestinal disease or flea allergies. These are all treatable diseases that are often hidden by our feline friends, who rely on our help to recognize the need for assistance. So, pay attention to your cat’s hairball frequency, help her out with her grooming, and ensure her diet includes ingredients that will help her better digest the hair she swallows when self-grooming. She will thank you by leaving you less blobs of hair and yuckiness around the house for you to clean up!


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