Hairballs are one of the worst byproducts of cats.
They’re sticky. They’re unappetizing. They’re loud. (Well, they are when they’re on the way up.)
Is there anything you can do to help your cat cough up fewer hairballs?
First, the Facts About Hairballs
Hairballs are – for the most part – not dangerous. In particularly severe cases, hairballs can actually cause intestinal blockages in cats which require surgery to treat, but generally cats’ bodies do a pretty good job of working things out. Hairballs are a byproduct of your cat’s grooming routine; they’re actually gobs of hair and saliva that got stuck in your cat’s stomach after her rough tongue pulled them off. Cats vomit to remove hairballs from their bellies.
What Can You Do About Hairballs?
It’s important to understand that hairballs are a natural and normal part of owning a cat. They’re gross, sure, but they’re not usually a symptom of anything serious. If you really, truly can’t stomach dealing with them or if your cat seems particularly nonplussed by having to hack up a hairball every few days, here are a few things you can do.
Get the Right Cat
Choosing a specific cat breed is the number one thing you can do to reduce the occurrence of hairballs. (If you already have a cat, you’ll need to hop in your Time Machine for this step.) Long-haired cats like Maine Coons and Persians tend to have far more – and more severe – hairballs than short-haired cats. Only “hairless cats” (Sphynx cats) don’t get hairballs at all.
Consider Hairball-Specific Food
There are a number of commercial cat foods on the market designed specifically to reduce the incidence of hairballs in cats. Do they work? The jury is out, but they might be worth a try if the hairball situation at your house is getting out of control. The recipes include more than standard amounts of fiber which in turn should help keep your cat’s digestive tract moving along, allowing her to more successfully pass her hairballs the old-fashioned way.
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Groom Your Cat Often
The more you brush your cat, the more loose hair you remove from her coat. (Bonus: less fur on your clothes and furniture!) Lending her a helping hand when it comes to grooming means she’ll loosen less fur with her own tongue, reducing the number of tufts she swallows. If you notice your cat is grooming more often than you think she should, be sure to talk to your vet. This could be symptomatic of a larger issue.
There are a growing number of cat owners (and vets) who believe that grain-free is the way cats are actually designed to eat. If your cat is puking up more than her fair share of hairballs, she might actually be suffering from a gastrointestinal issue instead of a fur problem. Talk to your vet about switching her diet to something a little easier on her stomach. A lot of cat owners swear by “grain free” since cats didn’t evolve with the intention of eating grain, anyway.
If you have questions or concerns about how many hairballs your cat is making, talk to your vet. There’s always a chance your cat could have some underlying gastrointestinal issues that are contributing to the problem.