As we all know, cats are very clean animals. So clean that they lick their fur and bodies to rid themselves of dirt and loose hair. When a cat grooms hair passes through the gastrointestinal tract and exits in the cat’s feces. However, this hair can get lodged in the stomach or intestine where larger clumps of hair can build up. Generally this does not cause a problem and the cat will pass the hairball in its stool or vomit. If the hairball is not passed normally the hairball can actually create a blockage and cause a variety of problems including blockage of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine or colon. If not treated these problems can become serious. In severe cases surgery may be necessitated to remove the blockage. If you suspect your cat is having trouble passing a hairball consult your vet.
Symptoms to look for:
- Weight loss or decreased appetite (if the hairball isn’t passed)
Most hairballs pass normally. If your cat is having trouble with a hairball consult your vet. Generally feeding your cat a bit of catnip, a bit of cat grass, fiber or a vet-approved laxative (usually petroleum based) will be enough to help your cat remove a hairball. However in more extreme cases surgery may be needed to remove the hairball. Also note that other illnesses which cause vomiting are often mistaken for a hairball problem. When a cat vomits, any hair which is already in the stomach will be expunged. This sometimes leads owners to think the vomiting is *just* from a hairball. If your cat has persistent vomiting or vomits often consult your vet, there may be another cause.
Brush and groom your cat regularly. The more hair you brush off your cat, the less he/she will swallow. You can also feed your cat catnip, cat grass (sold a pet stores), or a high-fiber diet (dry cat foods are usually a good source of fiber as compared to wet foods) on a regular basis to keep your cat’s digestive system in check and healthy. Always consult your vet before giving your cat any home-based medication or over-the-counter medication. And never give your cat any made-for-human medications without the expressed authorization of your veterinarian.