All hail the hairball!
Of course they’re disgusting. Nothing beats a pile of twisted, slimy fur to amp up the ick factor in any discussion. However, it has been deemed its own day: April 27th is now Hairball Awareness Day.
As long as there’s fur on Fluffy’s back, it will never cease, it would seem. Luckily, not all cats are seriously afflicted. For the ones who are, hairballs can mean more than just a household annoyance. Indeed, chronic vomiting, malnutrition, and surgical intervention are in no way unheard of. But that’s the topic of another post. This one here’s all about the simple stuff.
What is a hairball?
A hairball is technically known as the trichobezoar. A trichobezoar is a mass found within the gastrointestinal system due to the ingestion of excessive hair. It is more common in long haired cats such as Persians or Maine coons. Regardless of the technical name, or commonality, veterinarians everywhere are undeniably on board with April 27th’s simple take home: hairballs are bad. Whether it is professional or at home, here are a few ways you can help your cat when they have a hairball:
Cat Hairball Remedies
#1: Daily “Brushing” Sessions
I recommend that all cat people get their kitties addicted to daily brushing from a very early age. Five minutes of fun while watching television should do it. How hard is that? My only caveat (of sorts) is that you use a high-quality brush that selects the denser, finer undercoat. It seems it’s this super-fine, downy stuff that tends to gum up the gastrointestinal works more than most. (I like the Furminator® best.)
#2: Petroleum Jelly-based Products
For those who suffer more than others (more than once a week), daily petroleum-based hairball remedies are often the best solution. The most common ones are flavored with malt or chicken and come in extra-gooey formulations to help stick to all that incoming hair and smooth it through the gastrointestinal system.
#3: Hairball-formula Foods
If you happen to have cats who won’t accept anything they didn’t think of first, hairball-formula foods are a reasonable idea. Infused with petroleum jelly-like ingredients, they can often do the trick when more direct alternatives just aren’t doable. Having said that, feeding wet diets can often solve the problem too. (FYI, I prefer wet formulas over dry diets for all cats.)
#4: Address the Underlying Problem (If Any)
If you’re tired of picking up the nasties and justifiably concerned over what havoc future hairballs may wreak, think hard about what makes your cat ingest all that stuff. Is it her coat (long-haired or an extra-dense undercoat)? Skin disease (resulting in excessive licking)? If possible, get to the root of the problem and solve it. With your vet’s help, of course.
#5: When all else fails, groom her!
There’s always the possibility of frequent bathings and even full-body clip-down sessions to keep all that hair from unduly influencing the quality of her life. It may seem extreme but if it solves the problem it’s worth it. Plus, those lion cuts are super-cute!
#6: Talk to your veterinarian.
Always inform your veterinarian if you think hairballs are becoming a problem. We veterinarians always have tricks up our sleeve. Moreover, you never know when a simple feline annoyance can morph into a medical concern.