Posted on: May 26, 2008 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 0

Cats are among the most beautiful domestic pets, but that beauty can come with a price. As part of their regular self-grooming, cats swallow a certain quantity of their fur. Some of it is easily coughed up, but sometimes this hair ends up as fur balls. Getting rid of these blockages can be very uncomfortable and the pet’s overall health and desire for self-care suffers. Fortunately, all of you feline lovers can take heart: there are a number of ways to prevent and eliminate the scourge of hairballs.

1. Regular Brushing.

The easiest way to prevent hairballs is to give your cat a regular and thorough brushing. This is especially crucial for longhair breeds. Fortunately, the vast majority of cats love being brushed, so this can be a time for you to bond with your pet. Use brushes with fine teeth to ensure that the loosest hair is removed and be firm without applying so much pressure that it hurts your feline friend.

2. Hairball Products.

There are a number of commercially available hairball products. Some come in the form of a paste that cats lick off of your fingers, while others are added to the animal’s food. They aid the passing of hairballs by providing additional bulk to the animal’s diet or extra lubrication; some products do both at the same time. Check with your veterinarian about which of these mild laxatives might be best for your cat, given its specific health history.

3. Dietary Changes.

As mentioned, adding bulk to your cat’s diet can aid hairball removal and you can also accomplish this by varying your pet’s diet. Experiment by offering small pieces of fruit or vegetables and see which one she likes. This natural fiber helps her pass the hairball in her stool and saves you from having to resort to medication. Avoid fruits or vegetables that contain seeds or pits.

Other methods you can try include adding a teaspoon of bran to her food. Also experiment with a similar quantity of strained prunes or canned pumpkin. These will also help to bulk up stools and ease the passage of hairballs out during bowel movements. Melted butter also helps to make hairballs more slippery and easier to expel, but do not exceed a half teaspoon and do not try this method for more than a few days at a time.

4. Petroleum Jelly.

There are different schools of thought on the use of Petroleum Jelly (often commonly called Vaseline) as a hairball remedy. Smearing a small quantity on the cat’s paws will encourage her to lick if off, and the jelly helps lubricate any hair caught in her system.

This method is effective, though some argue that Petroleum Jelly is a carcinogen that neither humans nor animals should ingest. Our advice would be to stick with other methods that perform the same function and pose no danger.

5. Fish Oil.

In addition to food, you can also try giving your cat vegetable or fish oil. This adds lubrication to the hairball and aids in moving it along and out. Add a teaspoon of flax, safflower or fish oil to her food. Once the cat is no longer showing signs of difficulty, cut the dose in half but continue to provide it as a preventative. Change the amounts as necessary going forward.

6. Hairball Formula Food.

Instead of adding things to your cat’s food, you can instead give her food specially designed to fight hairball blockage. These foods have higher than usual levels of fiber and also help improve the health of the animal’s coat. This reduces shedding, which reduces the amount of hair the cat eats while grooming, and make it easier to pass the hairballs that do result.

7. Monitor Grooming.

It is impossible to watch your cat at all times, but try keeping an eye on the amount of grooming she does. If your cat seems to spend an overly large amount of time grooming herself, she may be doing it out of boredom. Try spending more quality time with her or buy her some new toys to play with. This will help to keep her occupied and less likely to spend an excessive amount of time ingesting her fur.

8. More Physical Activity.

Housecats are frequently in danger of obesity due to their relative lack of exercise. Keeping your kitty active improves her health and also helps to cut back on hairballs. Activity lessens the animal’s chances of boredom and also helps to keep her internal systems regular. That cuts back on constipation, which lessens the likelihood of hairball build-up.

9. Visit a Groomer.

While cats love to do their own grooming, a professional grooming can help reduce the amount of hairballs your pet has to deal with. If you do not have the time to regularly brush your feline, visiting a groomer every once in a while will help you in this regard. This is especially important if your cat is a longhair breed, such as a Persian or a Himalayan. Groomers are a more costly suggestion than others we have listed, but consider them if time is an issue for you.

10. Visit Your Vet.

Hairballs are generally not a major problem, though it can be distressing to watch your cat having difficulty with them. However, there are cases where hairballs have accumulated in a cat’s intestines, which can be quite dangerous. When this happens, surgery is usually required. If you are concerned or your pet is due for a regular check-up, ask your animal professional about the possibility that this might be an issue with your pet.

Hairballs are usually a common, but not overly serious issue for cat owners. Regular brushing and dietary changes are often all it takes to combat them. However, hairballs can also be a serious threat to your pet’s health. If your feline friend is showing lengthy difficulty and none of the methods we have suggested are helping, play it safe and ask your veterinarian to give her a check-up and provide some recommendations of what you should do next.

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