Cats, General, Grooming, Grooming

Caught in a Hairy Situation?


With all that retching and hacking, the first time you see your cat trying to hurl a hairball may prove a pretty worrisome event. A hairball, or trichobezoar, is just what the name says it is – a wad of undigested wet hair that was previously lodged within your cat’s digestive tract.

As your cat licks its fur, dead hair comes loose and is swallowed. Most of this hair goes through the digestive tract with no problem, and is excreted out through the faeces; however, too much hair is ingested at times and the wad cannot pass through properly, accumulating in the stomach and hence forming a wadded mass.

Most cats suffer from the occasional hairball or two, especially long-haired cats simply because they have more of it. If the hairball is not regurgitated, it may create a blockage in the stomach or small intestine, potentially creating serious and even life-threatening problems for your cat in the long run.

Besides personally witnessing the sight of hairballs around your home, other symptoms of hairballs include frequent dry coughing or hacking, particularly after meals; a lack of interest in eating; depression or lethargy; and a dry, matted coat.

There is no cure for hairballs. However, there are some things you can do to minimise the rate of regurgitation.

Most cats enjoy being brushed, which will also minimise the amount of hair swallowed by removing dead hairs before your cat’s tongue can get to it. Long-haired cats require daily brushing, while their short-haired counterparts will benefit from a weekly grooming session. Finish off with a wet wipe after each brush to remove any loose hairs you might have missed.

You can also find “hairball formula” labels under a wide range of pet food brands – the trick is finding one with high quality ingredients. Ensure that the content label reflects at least 8% crude fibre, else you’re not getting what you pay for. Such specialty foods may also cost you more. A high-fibre diet or fibre supplement may also help with a chronic hairball problem, which can help to move the excess hair through your cat’s digestive system and in to the litter pan.

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