What to do about hairballs
If you have a cat, chances are you’ve most likely dealt with hairballs. Cats spend 30% of their time grooming and swallow up to two thirds of the hair they shed while they groom. This can lead to hairballs in the digestive tract and can also cause more serious concerns such as gastrointestinal blockages. Most cats will produce hairballs at some point in their lives but keep an eye on them to make sure it doesn’t happen all the time. Cats that are throwing up hairballs all the time may be experiencing something more serious.
What are hairballs?
Hairballs are caused by your cat grooming and swallowing hair. A cat’s digestive system can normally cope with this hair. However, sometimes their body can’t cope with the hair and it accumulates in the stomach until it is vomited out. The vomit will usually contain hair and sometimes semi-digested food, and will be tubular in shape as it comes up through the oesophagus.
What causes hairballs?
A cat’s digestive system is designed to be able to handle hair, so if your cat is bringing up hairballs frequently, it may be a sign of another problem. Most commonly, increased grooming due to skin irritation, stress and anxiety and seasonal changes cause hairballs.
Helping prevent hairballs
Regular grooming of your pet is the easiest way to prevent hairballs, because it removes the excess hair from your cat before they can swallow it. Longer haired cats such as Persians and Maine Coons are much more prone to hairballs so combing them regularly, even daily, can significantly reduce the risk of your cat swallowing hair.
Other preventative steps you can take include feeding them cat food designed to maintain digestive health. These diets include a high volume of fibre to help keep the gastrointestinal tract moving normally. Hairball control foods also help bind hair together in the stomach and stimulate the intestine so the hair is helped to travel through the digestive system.
When to talk to your vet
While many felines experience hairballs, it should not be a common occurrence. If your cat is regurgitating frequently, with or without hair, something more serious may be going on. If you are concerned about the number of hairballs your cat is producing it is worth making an appointment with your local vet.
If you are noticing your cat has a loss of appetite, fatigued or has repeated episodes of retching without anything coming up, a hairball may have created an internal blockage. If your vet discovers a blockage, surgery may be necessary. However, this is very rarely the case. If your cat has problems with hairballs, your vet will most likely recommend a combination of behaviour and diet change.
The ROYAL CANIN® Gastro Intestinal range includes a diet specifically formulated to assist your cat in eliminating twice as much hair by natural digestion. This works by including a boost of fibre blends in your cat’s diet which bind the hair and help it travel through the gastrointestinal tract and out into the litter box.