|Digestion in cats is often complicated by the ingestion of large amounts of hair during grooming. To keep your cat healthy, here are the trouble signs to watch for, plus the options you can use to control hairballs and minimize the problems they can cause.
Why cats have bad hair days
Your cat grooms herself frequently, licking her fur right down to the tip of her tail. While this fastidious cleaning improves her appearance, it creates yet another problem…disposal of the wet, ingested hair, commonly referred to as a hairball.
Your cat's hair does not pass easily through her gastrointestinal tract, nor can her stomach and pancreatic enzymes digest it. Normally, most of the hair she swallows is expelled in her stool. Problems occur, however, when her hair doesn't get excreted, and instead forms into a dense hairball, or mat, in her stomach. Your cat must now vomit the hairball, usually in a fit of disturbing coughing and choking.
Don't wait until problems become serious
It is normal for your cat to have hairballs occasionally. However, if she must deal with them frequently, dangerous problems can develop. Hairballs can block her intestinal tract, making it impossible for her to either vomit or eliminate. In fact, twenty-five percent of all impaction cases (something "stuck" in the digestive tract) that veterinarians see are due to hairballs. Signs of a major hairball problem, and possible impaction:
If you suspect your cat is impacted, see your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian has several options to resolve impactions, but serious blockages may require surgical removal. It is far better that you use preventive practices, and provide assistance with existing hairballs, before such problems occur.
- Vomiting of undigested food
- Dry retching
- Inability to defecate
- Swollen abdomen
Preventive and management options
We do not suggest you use homemade products containing butter or oils, because they can bring about other digestive problems, or be absorbed by the cat's system before they have a chance to work. There are a number of effective ways you can help your cat deal with hairballs. Used routinely, they can help keep hairballs from forming:
Hairballs may be a natural part of being a cat, but they do not have to be a source of misery. If you employ preventive measures, but see no improvement in your cat over time, be sure to consult with your veterinarian.
- Grooming - Because cats are always grooming themselves, many owners do not realize that their cat will readily accept and appreciate brushing to remove loose hair. Brushing is the fastest and easiest way to reduce hair ingestion, and it also helps keep it off your furniture. There are many specialized cat grooming tools, including:
Dual-Sided Brush teases out snarls and tangles with the pin brush side, and use the bristle side to bring out the shine of your cat's coat.
Ergonomic Brushes is designed to conform to your hand and wrist movement.
Love Glove enables you to lift away cat hair with soothing strokes.
- Fiber - Other hairball remedies are available to add bulk and moisture to your cat's stool, making it easier to pass:
Cat grass grows fast and is easy to care for. It costs very little, and provides a renewable resource of enjoyment for your cat. A chemical-free, controlled source of fiber, indoor cat grass is a worry-free option.
- Laxatives - Petroleum-based laxatives and hairball remedies, flavored to make them palatable for your pet, coat the swallowed hair and stool, allowing it to pass through your cat's digestive system.
- Water - Nothing is more important to your cat's digestion than fresh, clean water. To optimize water intake, provide water in the fashion your cat prefers:
- If your cat likes running water, the
Drinkwell Fountain is the perfect solution. It continuously recirculates water at the flow rate you set.
- If your cat likes to drink from a pool, the Lixit Water Fountain is a gravity-style dispenser with a 64 oz. continuous reservoir. You cat's bowl will always be fresh and full.