Cats begin grooming themselves as early as they are in the kitten-hood, usually around the 4th week after birth. By the time they are 5 weeks of age, mutual grooming becomes prevalent if they are placed in a litter with other cats. This behavior can continue into adulthood. Cats may spend 30 - 50% of their day grooming themselves or/and other cats.
Every time cats groom, they swallow stray and loose hair into their stomach, forming a wad. If they swallow too much hair at once, clogging the digestive system, it could cause the cat to lose appetite, form blockages which can cause constipation or choking. Most of the hairballs accumulated in the stomach are eventually ejected from the body through regurgitation. However, if the hairballs are too large to pass, it may require medical procedures to surgically remove the hair wad. What can we do to help our cats get rid of hairballs?
You do not really need to do anything if your cat coughs up a hairball most of the time. Hairballs that are stuck in their body, are the ones that could cause health issues. There are commercial remedies that we can use to make the passage a lot smoother and easier for the cats:
- Melted butter - this is one of the best hairball remedies for cats since they love dairy and fat. The fat serves as a lubricator for the hairballs to pass. "A half-teaspoon of melted butter once a day for a few days (and no longer)... should do the trick." (Home Remedies for Cats with Hairballs)
- Petroleum jelly - Most of the cats like the taste of petroleum jelly, but some may not fancy it. What you can do is smear some on their paws or nose, so they will lick it off while grooming. Take 1/4 teaspoon of petroleum once a day for 4 consecutive days.
- Other over the counter treatment - there are other choices you can get from over the counter that provide lubrication for better and easier passage.
Whichever commercial remedy you choose depends on your cat's preference or how their body reacts to them. Some cats may find a particular remedy more interesting or effective than others.
Brush Your Cat:
Brushing up your cat can create a valuable time for you to bond with your furry. Cats lose hundreds of hair each day, so giving it a good brush can highly reduce the amount of hair ingested by your cat, especially for long-haired breeds such as Persians or Himalayans. Use a proper comb for your cat and pair it with a damp washcloth that can be used to wipe down the loose hair after a grooming session.
Add Some Fiber:
Sometimes a high fiber diet will just do the trick to diminish hairballs or accelerate the passage of a hairball. You can look for a high fiber food or simply supply some grass for your cat.
Boost up your cat's overall health:
A high level of physical activity and a good, balanced diet help fortify your cat's body and build a stronger digestive system. If your cat is overall sedentary, engaging your cat in some physical activities can get its system moving more actively.
Check with your vet:
If hairballs become a constant nuisance and your cat continues retching daily or even several times a day, experiencing diarrhea and losing appetite, it is imperative that you get your cat seen by a veterinarian.
Hairballs can cause blockages in the throat, stomach or intestines, so finding an appropriate remedy for your cats can help them relieve their discomfort and prevent hairball related health issues.