The formation of large clumps of hair in the digestive tract is a common problem in domestic cats. These tips will help you prevent hairballs from causing issues for your pet.
The formation of hairballs in cats’ stomachs is a widespread problem in these animals, which has to do with their lifestyle. Cats, following their hygiene behavior guidelines typically, spend a good part of the day preening with their tongue, provided with taste buds that stick out in the form of small cones.
Thanks to this, they can drag dirt from the skin and hair, and unless it gets dirty with very sticky substances that are difficult to remove, any cat needs its daily grooming to stay perfectly clean. Therefore, it is unnecessary to bathe our cat. However, it is possible to accustom them to puppies and, even that your feline comes to enjoy a relaxing bath with a suitable shampoo.
Daily grooming entails that a good amount of hair is ingested by the cat, passes into its digestive tract, and is later expelled through vomit or feces. This fact falls within the normality; the problem comes when our pets cannot eliminate those masses or hairballs, which accumulate in the digestive tract, mixing with food, saliva, and gastric juices, and sometimes forming genuine stones called trichobezoars.
Of different length, shapes, and color, the hair of cats, in addition to fulfilling its function as an insulator in adverse weather conditions and protector against external aggressions such as insects or vegetation, serves as a way of expressing the behavior of the animal, bristling when it shows an aggressive or defensive attitude, for example. In addition, it is clear that healthy and cared for hair reflects good general health in felines.
The cats shed hair naturally in times of the year where the climate is softened, spring and fall. However, this rule will strictly only in those cats that live in the external environment, since the effect of Heating systems and artificial lighting, indoor house cats can shed quite a lot of hair throughout the year.
Risk factors and consequences of hairballs in cats
The cat swallows hair continually with grooming daily. Although it ejects with feces or vomitándolo, several factors predispose to the formation of hairballs in your digestive tract, which we explain below:
- Time of year and way of life: although domestic cats shed hair throughout the year due to the heating systems in our homes, it is common for more of it to fall during periods of natural shedding (spring and summer), coinciding with the temperature moderation. This causes them to eat more hair than usual in those times. In addition, house cats are more predisposed than outdoor cats since they lose hair when brushing against vegetation and eliminate it more easily when purging with plants.
- Type of coat: the long skin of some cats, such as those of the Persian or Angora breed, predisposes them to generate more hairballs since they are more extensive.
- Age: upon reaching maturity, from eight years of age, intestinal transit slows down, making it difficult for the natural expulsion of hair through the stool to be made complex.
- Stress: the domestic cat suffers a certain degree of travel pressure at the vet or even minor changes in its daily routine. In addition, if they do not play regularly or have no means of distraction, boredom is also detrimental to them. These situations usually increase the time they spend grooming, which carries a greater risk of swallowing excess hair.
Symptoms and consequences of hairballs in cats
The inability to naturally expel the balls of hair causes animals to suffer arcades, which manifest themselves similarly to cough and vomit in their attempt to eliminate them. Some cats are listless and lose their appetite. If the hairball is in the intestine, it is likely to cause constipation.
In the most severe cases, trichobezoars can constantly irritate the gastric mucosa, producing gastritis or obstructing the gastrointestinal tract at any point, generating ileus or intestinal paralysis.
Treatment and prevention of hairballs in cats
The treatment consists of helping our cat to eliminate hairballs by administering specific dietary products, such as malt, which can also be used as preventives. In your case, it will also be necessary to control vomiting and correct constipation. For this, our veterinarian will assess the animal’s condition and will carry out the most appropriate treatments.
In addition, the accumulations of hair that are impossible to remove, mainly if they have come to obstruct the gastrointestinal tract, must be removed by surgical intervention.
Prevention of hairball formation in cats
To prevent an excessive accumulation of hair that could compromise our pet’s health, it is necessary, firstly, to reduce the amount of hair it ingests daily and, secondly, to facilitate its natural expulsion with the help of specific products that they are added to their regular diet.
One of the methods we can use to remove a good part of the dead or falling fur is brushing, especially in long-haired cats. It is advisable to start by brushing our cat against the grain, from tail to head, with a very soft bristle brush. Later we will use a special comb or brush to remove excess hair. If we get used to it from a puppy, this can be an excellent time to relax and strengthen the bond with our cat. Also, to prevent the animal from excessively grooming itself out of boredom and swallowing even more hair, it is highly advisable to play with it every day and provide an environment rich in stimuli to keep it entertained and active.
On the other hand, various products are designed to facilitate the expulsion of hairballs that can be included in your regular diet. It is becoming more and more common to find a specific feed that contains fiber and other elements to control the formation of hairballs. We can also offer you malt, a vegetable extract of cereals in the form of a dark paste or candy, which promotes intestinal transit they love as a reward. Generally, it is enough to take a small amount two or three times a week, directly from the tube or by smearing it on the paw or mouth.