Hairballs: how to prevent them harming your cat

All cat owners are probably familiar with hairballs. Those with long-haired cats are more familiar than most. You’ll know your cat has a hairball when he or she retches then vomits up a tubular mass of hair. This is a hairball.

What causes a hairball?

Hairballs occur as a result of your cat grooming and swallowing hair. Up to 2/3 of the hair pulled out during grooming is swallowed. Normally your cat’s digestive system is able to handle the hair. It simply passes through the intestinal tract and out in the faeces. But, in some instances, the hair is vomited instead or becomes dangerously lodged in the intestinal tract itself.

How do I prevent hairballs?

GROOMING: This is one of the easiest ways to prevent your cat from getting hairballs. Daily brushing and/or combing removes much of your cat’s loose hair before it can be ingested thus limiting the amount of hair that your cat swallows. Grooming also keeps your cat’s skin healthy as it stimulates the oils in the skin and the circulation. There is a wide variety of brushes and combs available at EberVet Vetshops to suit your needs though our current favourite is the Zoom Groom that attracts hair like a magnet. It feels comfortably into the palm of your hand and evenly and gently removes loose hair, stimulating the skin with its rubber teeth. Undercoat rakes are good for detangling long haired coats (favoured by Main Coon breeders) like Main Coons.

DIET: Some cat foods are specially formulated to help ingested hair pass easily through the cat’s digestive system, eliminating hair more regularly through the stools rather than it building up in the stomach and being regurgitated. Hill’s Feline Adult Hairball and Hill’s Feline Senior dry food and Royal Canin Hairball Care dry food and pouches are available at EberVet Vetshops. Ask our assistants for advice.

MEDICATION: Laxapet is a laxative specially formulated for cats and dogs for the treatment of hairballs and constipation. It is a malt-based gel flavoured with fish oil and is readily accepted by all animals. It softens the stools and lubricates the contents of the alimentary canal.

While many cats vomit an occasional hairball, it should not be a common event. If your cat is vomiting frequently with or without hair in the vomitus, there may be other health problems. Consult your veterinarian immediately. Frequent vomiting, with or without hairballs, is not a normal circumstance for any cat.