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Hairballs: What Every Cat Owner Should Know

April 15, 2024

In April, we have a range of pet-related holidays and awareness events to celebrate, including Little Pampered Dog Day, National Hug Your Dog Day, and Cat Lady Day. There are also a few events on the calendar that don’t seem very appealing. For example, it’s Heartworm Awareness Month. April also marks the observance of Hairball Awareness Day. While hairballs may not be fun or entertaining, it is crucial for all cat owners to be informed about them. Below, a veterinarian from San Antonio, TX provides some insight on this interesting topic.

Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?

Trichobezoars (the official term for hairballs) are probably the least appealing aspect of one of Fluffy’s most commendable traits: her cleanliness. Your lovely little diva could spend a good deal of her day grooming herself and maintaining her pretty coat. Regrettably, she will consume some of her own fur in the process.

Cats have papillae, which are microscopic hairs, on their tongues. Your furry companion’s tongue has a sandpaper-like texture, which you may notice when she licks you. The positioning of those tiny follicles propels anything she ingests down her throat. Fluffy’s digestion of birds and mice would logically be improved by this. Unfortunately, it also makes it easier for her to swallow her own fur.

You probably have a clear understanding of what happens next. Let’s just say it’s not your feline pal’s most endearing trick.

Do Fluffy Cats Get More Hairballs?

Longhaired cats, like Maine Coons and Persians, do have a higher likelihood of developing hairballs. However, any kitty (with the obvious exception of bald cats) is susceptible to hairballs. Many shorthaired furballs have dense coats, and can also get plenty of hairballs. 

Regular combing is recommended for cats with long hair. Additionally, this will aid in reducing knots and tangles. Ask your vet for specific advice.

How Many Hairballs Are Considered Normal?

In an ideal world, your cherished feline companion would rarely, if ever, have to deal with hairballs. It happens more frequently for most cats, though, than either you or your feline friend would like.

Time frames can vary from cat to cat, but most of our feline pals get them approximately once every week or so. If your feline companion is getting hairballs more frequently than that, contact your veterinarian for assistance. There is a possibility that this could indicate certain medical concerns. For more information, feel free to contact your local pet clinic in San Antonio, TX.

Does Canned Food Help Reduce Hairballs?

Canned food is not a cure, but it will not hurt. Kitties do digest canned food at a faster rate compared to dry food. Everything will pass through Fluffy’s system more quickly, which could be beneficial.

That said, when it comes to choosing the right type of food for your cat, there are a few important factors to keep in mind, including your pet’s health, age, and lifestyle. If you have any questions about your cat’s nutritional needs, it’s best to reach out to your veterinarian for more information.

Can I Help Keep My Kitty From Getting Hairballs?

There are a few ways you can help your feline friend.

Brushing Fluffy is a highly effective approach. Regular brushing will help you remove any loose fur and prevent your cat from ingesting it. Less dead fur on Fluffy will eventually lead to less dead fur in her stomach. However, there are additional reasons to brush your pet. Another benefit is that it improves your pet’s circulation. Grooming is also helpful in fostering a sense of connection. Many of our feline rulers thoroughly enjoy being pampered.

Hairball prevention products are also a logical choice. As the name suggests, these are specifically formulated to help fight hairballs. Ask your vet for guidance on these products, as not all options may be appropriate for every cat.

Your veterinarian might also suggest using pet jelly on Fluffy’s paws. After cleaning herself, she will lick it off, providing her digestive system with a little extra lubrication. Be sure to talk to your vet about various products.

This one will probably get you some purrs. From time to time, you can give Fluffy a can of tuna or sardines. Just remember to consult your veterinarian regarding the suitability of tuna for your pet. It’s fine for most kitties, but could be a problem if given too often. It’s also not a great option for furballs with certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems.

Next, make sure that Fluffy remains well-hydrated. You may even want to consider getting her a fountain. Many of our furry overlords really like drinking running water.

Last but not least, we would suggest that you keep your furry little friend indoors. Indoor cats are less exposed to seasonal changes in the weather, so they often shed less. (Fluffy will also avoid rolling around in dirt or dust.) Keeping your kitty indoors can also help keep her safe,  as she will be protected from the dangers of cars, wildlife, and inclement weather.

Consult your veterinarian for specific guidance.

What Is The Right Way To Brush A Cat? 

Wait until your furry friend is calm and slightly drowsy. (This shouldn’t be a very long wait, given how much time cats spend napping.) Start by lightly stroking her fur. Go with the natural direction of her coat. When your little buddy starts her engine and decides she is enjoying it, then the next step is to start using the brush.

Watch out not to apply too much pressure! If you’re struggling to remove the knots with a detangling brush, you may want to think about trimming them. It is important to use scissors with round ends for safety purposes. Consider using a plastic letter opener, the kind that resembles a credit card with a notch cut out, as an alternative option. Give her lots of love and attention, as well as a tasty snack, to help her form a positive impression. 

The main caveat? When Fluffy decides that she’s had enough, don’t force the matter: just let her go. It is not a good idea to try to force her into submission; doing so is a surefire way to get scratched. In addition, Fluffy may not be as eager to let you brush her again in the future!

What Happens If My Kitty Can’t Expel A Hairball?

This is definitely something that all people owned by cats should know. Hairballs can sometimes result in serious health problems. If a hairball gets stuck in your pet’s system and she is unable to get rid of it, veterinary care may be necessary. Intestinal obstructions and ruptures are critical conditions that can have severe consequences. Warning signs include bloody, frothy, or excessive vomiting; dry heaves; behavioral changes; lack of appetite; and uncharacteristic behavior.  Contact your animal clinic in San Antonio, TX right away if you spot any of these. 

Set Up An Appointment At Our Veterinary Clinic In San Antonio, TX.

Do you have questions about your cat’s health or care? Don’t hesitate to contact us if you ever need any help. We are here to assist you, and as your San Antonio, TX pet hospital, we are dedicated to providing great care!

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North Star Animal Hospital