April 30th is Hairball Awareness Day. Why build such awareness? Turns out, hairballs aren’t just gross annoyances. They’re actually a kitty choking hazard! As the weather gets warmer, cats tend to overgroom to alleviate shedding hair, and although you think your clothes and furniture suffer the brunt, much of the hair ends up ingested. Feline-only practitioner Dr Arnold Plotnick offers a few tips on how to keep your cat healthy and hairball free.
How to prevent hairballs in cats
Be diligent about grooming
Decrease the amount of hair the cat ingests by using a grooming tool like the FURminator deLuxe deShedding Tool, which can reduce shedding by 90 percent. Proactive grooming removes the excess hair that causes hairballs and is a more holistic preventive measure than giving your cat a laxative or allowing him to cough up the blockage.
Kitties need fiber, too
Add a little canned pumpkin to the cat’s meals once or twice a week. The fiber in the pumpkin can help move any hair clumps through the system, and your cat will love the tasty treat. Butter can have the same effect, but is high in calories, so pumpkin might be a better choice.
Keep your cat hydrated
Encourage the cat to drink plenty of water by placing bowls throughout the house, as the water will help flush out the hair before it has time to clump in the stomach. It is also a great general practice to keep water bowls separate from food bowls to encourage the cat to drink more water.
Make over the cat’s menu
Several specially-formulated cat foods aid in the fight against hairballs. Always consult with a vet before making any drastic changes to a cat’s diet. Sudden food changes can sometimes upset the stomach.
Know the warning signs
If a hairball problem persists, ask a veterinarian to recommend a supplement to help prevent ingested hairs from clumping. Here are a few signals a cat may have an excessive hairball problem:
- Frequent dry hacking
- An overly matted coat
- Cylindrical (cigar-shaped) masses on the floor or furniture
- Lethargy or lack of interest in playing or eating
- Swollen abdomen