Cats are beautiful and wonderful creatures and their coat is generally magnificent, shiny and very neat. This is because cats are very fastidious groomers, spending a lot of their time grooming and making sure that they are clean.
Research has shown that on average, cats spend about four percent of their time cleaning their coat and eight percent of their rest/non-sleep time grooming!
Cats are passionate groomers that work very hard to keep their fur clean and shiny. While cleaning up themselves with their tongues, they ingest their shed fur. This fur can’t be digested or broken down and if it does not go through a cat's digestive system, it can turn to a hairball.
Developing hairballs is completely normal for cats. All felines spit them up frequently. But sometimes, hairballs that are not excreted can cause harm to a cat’s intestinal health.
Keep reading to learn how to reduce shedding and hairball in cats. You will also learn about the easiest treatments to help keep your cat digestive system running smoothly.
What are hairballs?
Hairballs are balled pieces of hair that collect in a cat's digestive system after several grooming sessions. Veterinarians refer to this as“trichobezoars”. Cat tongues have hook-like characteristics that trap loose, formerly shed hairs.
When the fur is swallowed by a cat, it goes to its stomach and doesn’t digest.
Most fur will harmlessly leave your cat's digestive tract without creating any problem. Other times, a cat will vomit these trapped hairs that weren’t excreted through stools.
And, despite its name, the hairball doesn’t usually come in round shape; it takes the shape of sausage when it passes through a cat’s esophagus.
Why do Hairballs happen?
Cats perform grooming with their forepaws and rough tongue to systematically wash their whole body. Licking leads to skin secretions that help in keeping the coat shiny and clean, and the saliva left on the coat helps in keeping a cat cool when the weather is warm.
If you own a lot of cats, you must have noticed that all your cats are friends and probably spend most of their time grooming one another (while relaxing in their favorite sleeping spots).
Unluckily, one great disadvantage of the cat’s strange grooming habit is the collection of hairballs around the digestive tract.
This occurs as a result of the backward-facing “barbs” that is found on every cat’s tongue – which does the job of a comb. When a cat grooms with her tongue, her fur is caught and swallowed.
When the fur is swallowed, it could accumulate in a cat’s stomach. Most of the fur will pass through the intestinal tract and end up being excreted. Hair that doesn’t go through gets stuck and forms a sausage or ball-shape.
Once it gets big enough, it will be unable to pass down through the intestinal tract. Therefore it can cause an obstruction or be vomited.
Though this is a completely normal process, it causes most cat owners to worry. Regurgitating, coughing, or gagging within an hour or two after eating a meal are all signs that a cat may have trouble with a hairball.
Cats that self-groom frequently or are shedding may develop more hairballs and regurgitation. Cats with longer hair are more likely to develop hairballs when compared to the shorter-haired breed of cats and such cats shed more.
Here are ways to reduce shedding and hairballs in your cat:
1. Brush your cat
Shedding is what causes the formation of a hairball, so personally removing those loose hairs from your cat’s body will help in reducing both shedding and hairballs.
Brush your cat from time to time – especially if she or he belongs to the long-haired breed and has started shedding. Your cats will end up loving the grooming session you give them, and you may also enjoy it as well.
2. Keep them hydrated
Cats that do not drink the right proportion of water usually have dry coats and skin, resulting in the shedding of their hair. So as a cat owner, ensure that you keep their water bowl full with clean, cool fresh water to drink.
3. Wipe her down with a towel
You can end your grooming session with your cat by wiping her down with a baby wipe or a wet paper towel. This will help in picking up leftover loose hair. If you decide to use wipes, however, make sure you choose a brand that is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.
4. Use olive oil with your cat’s foodAdding a little olive oil to your pet’s food can help with digestion and help them excrete hairball naturally. If you notice that your cat keeps struggling with hairballs, try adding a little olive oil to her food.
Do not force oil into your cat’s mouth, although, as you could get it into her lungs. Allow your pet cat to lick it up herself.
Administering a teaspoon of olive oil once a week should be enough. When there is oil in the digestive tract, it will help your kitty to excrete fur in its stools and help with digestion as well.
This will also reduce stomach aches that come with hairballs. Other oils, such as saffron oil, mineral oil or corn oil can help as well.
5. Use petroleum jelly
You can try tricking your pet cat into easing her problems by simply applying a little petroleum jelly to both paws. Your cat will lick the jelly away, and this will lubricate the digestive tract.
This will help make excretion easier, eliminating hair in the pet cat’s digestive system. Do this every week or so.
6. Go fishing
Many canned fish products contain natural oils, and they’re usually packed in oil too. Give your cat a good treat with a little piece of sardine or tuna from time to time. You can also share your lunch with your cat by pouring the oil from a can into your cat’s dinner.
7. Feed your cat pumpkin
Are you aware that canned pumpkin can help your cat pass obstructions? Fiber-loaded pumpkins have binding qualities and can help in the passage of hairballs and feces.
Ensure that you choose only pure pumpkins, not pumpkins with pie filling that contain sugar. Just add a teaspoon of canned pumpkin into your cat’s meal.
8. Add fiber to your cat’s diet
An extra amount of fiber is great for everyone’s diet, and your cat is not excluded. You can throw in a little amount of high-fiber cereals to your pet cat’s food as it helps in processing those hairballs. Add a little amount of any fiber product to reduce hairballs in your cat.
Most cat owners see shedding and hairballs as a part of their cat’s life, but you can prevent these occurrences by using the above remedies. Ensure that you see your veterinarian before trying any of the earlier discussed techniques, especially if your kitty is old or suffering from a chronic illness.