If your cat suddenly starts coughing and hacking away, you know what comes next: a gross pile of fur on your carpet. Hairballs are normal every once in a while and usually mean that your cat is taking care of their fur. Still, pet owners don’t enjoy seeing their kitties try to cough them up, nor do they enjoy the mess they make afterwards.
It’s not really possible to get rid of hairballs forever, but adopting some healthy habits might reduce the chances of you finding a slimy lump on the floor. Try some of these tips to help your cat experience fewer hairballs in their future.
Regular grooming sessions
Hairballs are a direct result of your cat grooming themselves and swallowing lots of loose fur. Hair in smaller amounts is easier to pass through the digestive system, but cats who don’t get brushed often are more likely to have big lumps of fur filling up their bellies. So, to reduce hairballs, don’t leave all the grooming to your cat!
Brush your kitty once a day to minimize the amount of fur that’s available to swallow during bath time. This method for preventing hairballs is most effective in the spring, when cats shed the largest volume of fur, or during seasons when your cat experiences allergies.
Pet owners who don’t normally brush their cats should allow for an adjustment period. Cats can take a while to get used to new habits, so you’ll want to gradually introduce the brush to their daily routine. Once they’re used to it, brushing for just a few minutes every day is all you need to help your cat hack up a hairball less often.
Lots of playtime
Playing with your cat is one of the best ways to keep their digestive system in great condition, which can also reduce hairballs. Regular exercise gets things moving internally and helps your cat use the litter box more frequently. Hairballs that have time to clump and get stuck are more likely to come up the opposite way. A cat in good shape will pass loose hair faster and avoid blockages in their intestines.
If your cat has a sedentary lifestyle, find out what motivates them to get up and get active. There are lots of ways to encourage your cat to play. Toys filled with catnip are a favorite among cats and will surely get them off the couch. A classic laser pointer will have your cat zipping across the room in seconds! Other kitties prefer stuffed toys attached to a string or electronic toys that move every time they do. Experiment with different toys to see what your kitty likes the best and what holds their attention the longest.
Supplements and special diets
Unfortunately, some cats need a bit more than just a grooming session and playtime to reduce their hairballs. Dietary supplements are available to aid your cat’s digestive system and reduce the likelihood of them hacking up a clump of fur. This method is recommended for cats who suffer from excessive hairballs and intestinal buildup. However, it’s important to speak with your vet before adding supplements to your cat’s diet. Supplements in the wrong cat can lead to more complicated health problems!
Ask your vet about special dietary products for hairballs. These remedies are often made with gels and natural oils that coat the inside of the digestive tract and help your kitty pass clumps of hair so they don’t come back up the esophagus.
You could also try giving your cat special foods. Pet stores offer dry kibble made for cats plagued by hairballs. These products are packed with fiber to help move hair through your cat’s digestive system quickly. Some foods also contain enzymes that break clumps of loose hair into smaller pieces. Again, remember to check with your vet before switching to a special food. They’ll give you instructions for how to properly incorporate this new kibble into your cat’s diet.
For some cats, excessive grooming (and the hairballs that follow) could be a sign of boredom. Cats with nothing better to do will clean their coats more than necessary and ingest way too much hair. This is another reason why playtime is great for preventing hairballs. If your cat is lounging around all day, it’s time for some extra love and attention! Quality time will encourage your furry friend to fixate on something other than licking themselves.
It’s important to note that there’s a difference between boredom, laziness and lethargy. Failed attempts to engage your cat could indicate the presence of a health problem. Lethargy is one symptom of an intestinal blockage, which requires immediate medical attention. Cats with intestinal blockages might also experience constipation, hacking, inappetence and matted fur from lack of grooming. Schedule an appointment with your vet if you suspect something’s amiss.
Help your cat rest (and digest) easy
Hairballs aren’t pleasant for your kitty, nor are they fun to clean up. Show your feline friend some kindness and try different methods for preventing hairballs. With a little extra effort, you won’t have to pick slime balls off the floor, and your cat will get more quality time with their favorite human.