Hairballs are no fun to have. Many animals are susceptible to it. Heck, even humans can get a hairball. However, it is our favorite feline, the housecat, which suffers the most. A hairball is exactly what it sounds like - a ball of hair! So you are probably wondering – why in the heck do cats get hairballs in the first place? The answer lies in their grooming practices. You’ve seen cats give themselves “baths” before, haven’t you? Where do you think all that hair they lap up with their tongues goes?
Cats have a rough tongue that can be likened to serrated taste buds, sort of like sandpaper. When cats lick their fur, these “serrations” capture the hair. The cats are unable to spit out the hair, so they have to swallow it to get it out of their mouths. The result is a build-up of hair in their tummy called a hairball. For the most part, cats can pass these offending balls through their digestive tract and eliminate them through normal means. It is only when these disgusting wads of hair grow too large to pass from the stomach and through the intestinal tract that things get tricky.
When you see cats heaving and retching, be prepared to have a disgusting wet wad of gunk come flying out of their mouths. When these hairballs cannot pass efficiently through the digestive system, cats have to force themselves to vomit in order to get rid of these offending things. Please note that watching a cat rid itself of a hairball through these means can be a bit of a trial. However, just know that this does not really hurt the cat. However, you as the owner may get totally grossed out!
All cats are susceptible to hairballs, but the long-haired varieties are particularly plagued by them. This is simply because of the excess hair they have in relation to the short-haired cats. Unless you own one of those rare and exotic cat breeds that are practically hairless, you will have to deal with your cat’s hairballs at some point or another. Hairballs, while hard to avoid, are fairly easy to maintain. Just do a little research on the internet about it or call and talk with your veterinarian for advice on how to treat it.
First of all, if you brush your cat and help with its grooming, there is less chance of it swallowing a lot of hair. Brush strokes help get rid of a lot of that dead, loose hair. By brushing your cat, you are also forgoing a shedding problem. The diet of your cat could be helpful in eliminating hairballs from its system. Some cat food lines that manufacturers produce have special oils in the food, like mineral oil. These oils help break up the hairballs, allowing for easier digestion. Another benefit to these specially formulated foods is the improved condition of your kitty’s skin and the healthy coat of hair. This means that shedding is minimized meaning less ingestion of hair.
There are also special treats that you can give your cats that contain petroleum products. These products come in a variety of flavors that cats enjoy. These petroleum-based treats help coat the tummy and digestive system for easy passage through the body. There are several ways to administer these petroleum-based treats. You can try and spoon feed your cat see if they will eat it that way; put some on their snout so they can lick it off; or, put some on the paws of your cat and watch them lick the treats off that way.
It is only when your cat starts retching and vomiting that you know they have a hairball that is just too big to pass out of its tummy. By this time, you just have to hope that the cat gets that offending hunk of gunk out. Otherwise, your cat could start developing symptoms of a stomach or intestinal blockage, which is serious business. These symptoms usually include hacking for more than twenty-four hours, lack of appetite and/or lack of body eliminations. By this time, surgery is the only option to unblock this hulking hairball. By following some of the preventative measures, your cat can lead a relatively hairball-free life.