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Hairballs in cats

Almost every cat owner knows them: cat hairballs. Cats can produce a hairball about once a month, even if you have never seen one before. However, hair or hairballs can also irritate the gastrointestinal tract, or worse, cause constipation. You can read everything about hairballs and what you can do to prevent your cat from regurgitating hairballs in this article.

cat grooming himself

How often do hairballs occur?

Hairballs occur about once a month. A cat shouldn’t produce hairballs regularly. Most of the hair that a cat ingests during washing passes through the gastrointestinal tract without any problems. However, hair or hairballs can cause irritation, or an obstruction, in the digestive system. We would like to prevent his.

How do hairballs occur in cats?

Cats spend a lot of time grooming their fur. Licking does not only clean the coat, it is also part of the social behaviour between cats living together. When a cat grooms, loose hairs are licked and swallowed. Most of the hair is defecated undigested. Real hairballs are only formed when too much hair is swallowed or when there is a change in the motions of the gastrointestinal tract.

From what age do cats suffer from hairballs?

Kittens start washing from the age of 3 weeks. Before that time, kittens are washed by the mother cat. When the kittens are 6 weeks old, they can groom themselves like an adult cat. From that moment on, they can also suffer from hairballs.

Why don’t all cats suffer from hairballs?

Cats with short hair seem to suffer less from hairballs than cats with long hair. Long-haired cats groom themselves more and swallow longer hairs. Also, excessive licking due to skin problems, such as allergies or fleas, or due to pain and stress may increase the chance of hairballs. So if your cat is regurgitating a lot of hairballs, it is sensible to get this checked.

Are hairballs dangerous for my cat?

You won’t notice most swallowed hair in your cat’s faeces. If too many hairs enter the stomach, a hairball will be formed. After a while the stomach wall gets irritated and the cat will try to vomit the hairball out. It is likely that cats instinctively eat grass or other green plants in the house. This ‘cat grass’ irritates the stomach and induces vomiting.

If hairballs are not vomited out, problems can arise. For example, they can lead to blockage of the intestines. This will cause your cat to vomit and have severe abdominal pain. Surgical removal of the hairball is the only solution. If hairballs stay in the intestines for a long time they can become a hard mass. This can also cause abdominal pain.

What can you do to prevent hairballs in your cat?

An adapted diet to prevent hairballs

An adapted diet can reduce hairballs. Gastrointestinal problems occur regularly in cats because of the wrong nutrition. Vomiting and excessive hairballs can be the cause of this. A different diet can help to reduce these complaints. Dietary foods that can reduce hairballs often contain insoluble fibres which stimulate gastric emptying and intestinal contractions. This makes the hair easier to defecate. An example of a diet food with high fibre content is Royal Canin Fibre Response Cat. It also helps to feed your cat small portions several times a day. This keeps your cat’s gastrointestinal tract moving.

Brushing your cat

You should get into the habit of regularly brushing your cat when it is shedding – for example with the FURminator . Long-haired cat breeds require at least one grooming session per week. Brushing removes most of the dead hairs that would otherwise be swallowed by the cat during grooming. Brushing also gives your cat a good skin massage which improves the quality of the skin and coat, which will result in fewer dead hairs. If regular combing is not an option, it may help to have a long-haired cat trimmed. The lion cut (long hair on the head, legs and tail, but short hair on the body) can help your long-haired cat swallow less hair and form fewer hairballs.

Give your cat hairball paste

You can also give your cat a special hairball paste, like Kat-a-lax , during the moulting period. This paste softens existing hairballs and has a slight laxative effect, without causing diarrhoea. Hairball paste generally has a pleasant taste for cats, so administering it won’t be a problem. A similar product is Easypill Hairball , which stimulates the regurgitation of hairballs. It is also advisable to always have cat grass productscat grass products, especially during the moulting season.

Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Hairball for cats

The Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Hairball Cat is a diet that Royal Canin has developed specifically to reduce the production of hairballs. This diets contains a special mix of fibres, the so-called hairball complex, which helps with the natural removal of swallowed hairs, through defecation. Additional nutrients support the digestive system and keep the gut flora balanced.

Should I see my vet if my cat has hairballs?

If your cat seems to be constipated by a hairball, you should indeed see your vet as soon as possible to have your cat treated.

If your cat regularly suffers from hairballs, it may be wise to have your cat examined for underlying causes, such as allergies, fleas, pain and stress. If no medical cause for the hairballs is found and preventive measures do not resolve the problem, your vet may prescribe medication. This medication is aimed to help empty the stomach.

Do you have a question for our vet about (problems due to) hairballs in your cat or gastrointestinal disorders in general? Please contact our vet on our telephone number 033 0818 0862 or by mail at veterinarian@vetsend.co.uk.