Hairballs: the not so nice side of owning a cat. But did you know that as objectionable as hairballs are to us, they’re equally unpleasant for cats themselves, and can in fact pose a health risk?
Large amounts of hair, ingested during grooming, does not pass through the gastrointestinal tract easily and is not digested. When the hair is not expelled in the stool it forms a hairball in the stomach, which comes up in a less than pleasant vomiting spell.
Longhaired cats, or those that groom or shed hair excessively require additional assistance with hairball management. Here are some steps that you can take:
Switching to a hairball prevention diet can effectively assist with management of hairballs. Choose a pet food brand that has committed to putting the health and nutritional wellbeing of your cat first by confirming their PFI (Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa) membership, either by finding the PFI logo proudly displayed on their packaging or via the PFI website (www.pfisa.co.za).
By brushing your cat daily you will assist by removing the majority of the dead hair, limiting the amount that can be ingested to eventually form a hairball.
Give an additional hairball prevention product
There are numerous products on the market that are essentially laxatives that will lubricate the intestines to reduce the incidence of hairballs. Speak to your vet about available options and follow their dosage instructions.
Discourage compulsive grooming
Hairballs will be exasperated by excessive grooming, which can become a behavioural issue in some cats who find comfort or enjoyment in the act. Giving your cat more appropriate activities to engage in, such as games that engage their predatory instincts, may assist.
Play it safe:
Be aware that hairballs can cause life-threatening blockages within the digestive system. If any of the below symptoms are noted you should seek veterinary medical advice immediately:
Vomiting, gagging and retching without expulsion of a hairball
Loss of appetite
Constipation / diarrhoea