There is no cat owner immune to that horrible retching noise that is sure to wake you up in the middle of the night.
You know the one. The sound that tells you that in a few seconds you will be cleaning your carpet and trying not to make a scene yourself.
And you can’t even be mad because you know that it is natural for cats to consume their fur when grooming themselves. When a cat grooms themselves, they often swallow excess hair that was pulled out accidentally by the papillae, or grooves, in their tongue.
The fur normally travels through their digestive tract and is excreted in their stool. However, some fur may not pass through and instead builds up inside your cat's stomach causing them to vomit lumps of fur known as "hairballs."
The life stage of your cat plays a role in whether or not she's more likely to develop this problem: kittens are at higher risk than adult cats because they tend to groom themselves more than adults do; older cats may also be more susceptible due to changes in their teeth or digestive systems over time.
Either way, no pet owner wants to deal with hairballs more than necessary. So how can we stop cat overgrooming? What causes a cat to overgroom in the first place?
And most importantly, is there a natural cat hairball remedy?
Some cats are more prone to hairballs than others
While it's true that every cat owner has had to deal with a hairball at one point or another, there are some cats who are more prone to having them than others. Cats with longer fur, indoor-only cats, indoor/outdoor cats and overweight cats can all be at risk of hairballs due to the amount of hair they consume.
However, there are also other factors that might make your cat more likely to develop one:
- Poor gut health
- A diet high in grass or other plant material (such as catnip)
- Excessive grooming habits
The life stage of your cat plays a key role, too. When it comes to your cat's grooming habits, the stage of his life is important to consider. Kittens are inherently more active and have a greater tendency to brush themselves than adult cats. Additionally, older cats may have reduced their activity levels even further, making them less likely to groom themselves and, as a result, more prone to hairballs unless you assist them with the grooming process.
The frequency of hairballs also changes over a cat's life; a kitten may only require grooming once or twice per day (or even less frequently), whereas an older cat may require daily attention for brushing and combing sessions (or even more frequently).
Hairballs in cats can cause other complications
Hairballs may appear to be harmless when we are discussing cat gut health. In reality, they may indicate a gut imbalance. Dysbiosis, or a gut imbalance, can cause a cat to overreact to their environment or food, which may lead to itchy skin or stress. When cats are dealing with sensitive skin or stress, they may respond by overgrooming.
Additionally, excessive hairballs may indicate impaired gut motility, or the rate and capacity of the digestive system to move food through the gastrointestinal tract. Reduced gut motility can impact the gut microbiome by interfering with nutrition absorption and creating bacterial overgrowth. If reduced gut motility is a continuous problem, there could be serious consequences.
Reduced motility means reduced ability to move not only food through, but also fur.
If a hairball gets stuck it could lead to more fatal conditions. A hairball that gets stuck and causes vomiting is called a trichobezoar. The cat may also have difficulty breathing, depression, weight loss and/or abdominal pain.
Treatment for a trichobezoar depends on the severity of your cat's condition. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend surgery to remove the hairball from your cat's stomach or intestines.
Cat hairball remedies
There are a number of ways you can help reduce your cat's hairball risk. First, choose a high-quality diet for your furry friend. Some cat food diets contain more fiber than others, so you may want to give your cat some variety in their food and use an easily digestible brand for about half of their daily meals.
Fiber is vital for proper digestion in cats, and it also helps to prevent constipation (which makes them more likely to cough up hairballs). If you don't want to introduce these products into your pet's diet all at once or don't want them to be around the house all of the time (or both!), there are supplements available that provide the same benefits—just be sure they're suited for felines before purchasing them.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in your cat's digestive tract and help keep the body healthy. They can be found in fermented food, such as yogurt or kefir, but the easiest way to give them to your cat is in a supplement.
Cats have a tendency to swallow hairballs, which can cause vomiting and other digestive problems. Probiotics may help prevent this by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics also aid in the prevention of hairball formation in the stomach by assisting in the breakdown of hair into smaller pieces that can be more readily passed through the digestive system.
In addition to reducing the likelihood of hairballs, a high-quality probiotic like Daily Cat can bring your cat’s gut health back to homeostasis (a level of balance). Up to 70% of the immune system is found in the gut, so it comes as no surprise that gut health is critical not only to us, but to our cats as well.
Improve your cat’s gut health starting today!
Ultimately, there are no absolute guarantees that hairballs will never again plague your cat, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of hairball impaction while improving gut health. A healthy diet and probiotics can be a big help, as can special grooming tools. Hairball concerns do not have to be a big nuisance for you or your cat— start taking care of your cat’s gut health today.