Karma-Kat recently has “urped” up more cat hairballs, and I know why. I bet you didn’t know that in hot weather, cats lick and groom themselves to cool off. Of course, that can lead to more hairballs, so in hot weather or shedding season, you may see an uptick in these problems.
Longhair cats like this Persian require extra grooming help to prevent cat hairballs.
Cat Hairballs: What You Need to Know
It’s shedding season, and cat hairballs (sometimes even dog hairballs, URK!) can be a problem at this time of year. Many cat owners discover wads of wet fur—hairballs—late at night when they step on them with bare feet. Cats seem to instinctively choose to decorate the most stainable portions of the carpet. Refer to this post about cleaning accidents on the carpet.
It’s normal for cats—especially those with long fur—to experience hairballs once in a while. Cats spend up to 50 percent of their awake time grooming and swallow fur in the process. What doesn’t end up in the litter box comes out the other end as nasty cigar-shaped cat hairballs.
But swallowing lots of fur isn’t healthy, and hairballs are more than a nasty nuisance. Kitties that produce three or more hairballs a month should be checked by the vet to rule out other health issues.
Hairballs cause diarrhea, appetite loss, coughing, retching, constipation—or even deadly intestinal blockage. Cats have had hairballs as big as baseballs that require surgery to be removed! Most cases won’t need surgery, though, and most hairballs can be easily eliminated. Refer to these tips to untangle your cat hairballs problems.
Grooming cats reduces the chance for hairballs.
7 CAT HAIRBALLS TIPS
Groom the cat. The cheapest, easiest hairball cure for cat hairballs is to regularly comb and brush your cat. Any hair you remove won’t be swallowed to end up staining your upholstery. The Furminator eliminates up to 90 percent of shed fur. Seren-kitty LOVES her Furminator (Magic loves his dog version, too).
Feed a hairball diet. A variety of commercial products are designed to prevent cat hairballs. They include extra nondigestible fiber. That helps push swallowed hair through the digestive tract, so it is eliminated naturally with each bowel movement. Most of these are dry diets, though, and cats do much better on wet foods.
Add some fiber. If you’d rather not switch foods, just add fiber to kitty’s regular diet. Cats love and need lots of protein but that sometimes promotes constipation and doesn’t help move the swallowed hairs. Mix in a teaspoon of plain bran or Metamucil to canned meals. Flaxseeds or psyllium husks, available in health food stores, also act as natural laxatives and work well. Add ¼ teaspoon of flaxseeds or psyllium for every meal.
Offer pumpkin. Canned pumpkin—the plain type, not for pies—is very rich in fiber and cats often love the taste. Get a jumbo-size can, and divide into teaspoon-size servings and freeze in an ice cube tray. Thaw one serving at a time, mixing into the regular food or offer as a treat once or twice a week. Some cats actually love fresh green beans or cat grass, so offer for extra treats and bowel health.
Give a bit of honey. If your cat doesn’t appreciate canned pumpkin, you can offer a natural laxative, two or three times a week. Combine raw oatmeal, honey, and olive oil into a paste. Offer one to two tablespoons as a treat when hairballs are a problem.
Lubricate the gut. Butter will make your cat purr, but it won’t help hairballs. Digestible fats like butter can cause diarrhea and usually get absorbed before they can move the problem out. Instead, offer non-medicated petroleum jelly. It looks nasty but many pets like the taste. It will coat the hairball to make it slide more easily out of the system. If kitty refuses to accept a finger-full scraped into his mouth, just spread the jelly on his paw so he has to lick it off as he grooms. We’ve been using Vetoquinol Laxatone for Karma (maple flavoring, who knew?!). Commercial hairball remedies often add salmon or malt flavoring to similar petrolatum products. Take care to follow label instructions or your veterinarian’s advice, though. Overuse of these products can interfere with the pet’s use of fat-soluble vitamins.
Do your cats suffer from hairballs? How do you manage the problem? Do tell!
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Pets shed in both the spring and fall. Shadow-Pup leaves mini-drifts of fuzz I sweep up daily, all summer long. Karma-Kat’s URK-factor (hairballs) increases with pet shedding season. Yuck! The fur flies about the same time as allergy season begins. If you suffer from allergic reactions to your cat or dog, check out these pet allergy tips.
Dog Shedding Time!
Cat and dog shedding may be a big hairy deal—but it is normal. Magical-Dawg used to leave drifts of black fur everywhere. Although Shadow-Pup’s medium-coarse fur, and Karma-Kat’s short light fur isn’t nearly as noticeable, they also shed.
Year-round floating fur increases the challenge of keeping dry cleaned apparel in a Fido-free zone. You can’t stop pet shedding. Unless you’re a passionate pet lover who considers pet hair to be a condiment, understanding how to tame the hairy mess will keep your pet’s coat and skin healthy and simplify housecleaning.
Combing it out means it won’t be swallowed–and end up on your carpet!
Why Pet Shedding Matters
It’s not the temperature that prompts fur shedding. Light exposure, either to sun or artificial light, determines the amount and timing. More hair is shed during the greatest exposure to light. Outdoor cats and dogs living in the northeastern United States shed with the seasons, with the most fur flying in late spring for the several weeks during which daylight increases. But house pets under constant exposure to artificial light shed all year long.
Hair grows in cycles beginning with a period of rapid growth in the spring, followed by slower growth, and then ending in a winter resting stage. Mature hairs loosen in the follicles over the winter. In the spring, another cycle of hair growth begins, and new hair pushes the old loose ones out, resulting in an all-over shed.
Poodles shed–but not as often
What Cats and Dogs Shed Most or Least
All cats and dogs shed—even shorthair pets—but some breeds prompt more aggravation. The so-called “non-shedding” curly-coated dogs like Poodles just have much longer fur-growing seasons in which hair continuously grows for years at a time. They tend not to lose huge amounts of hair all at once. Shed hairs get caught and held in curly coats so shedding isn’t as obviously left on the furniture.
Shorthair pets like Bravo and Karma shed just as much but the tiny hairs don’t create furry drifts–just fuzz-balls. “Double coated” shedding German shepherds, Chows, and Persian cats may look moth-eaten when they shed clumps of fur at a time.
Sphynx cats also shed–you just won’t notice!
Matts, Hairballs & Hotspots–What About Shaving?
Thickly furred pets develop mats when fur is trapped and tangled next to the skin. Mats are terrific flea habitat and create bruises.
Shaving down the pet’s fur may reduce the risk of matting and hotspots. Fur also protects cats and dogs from sunburn, though, so be judicious when trimming up the coat.
6 Tips for How to Stop Pets Shedding
You can’t stop shedding, but you can reduce the aggravation to yourself and health risks to your pet. Refer to this post for more house cleaning tips.
Groom Every Day. Religious fur care prevents problems and keeps skin and coats healthy. Make sure you groom outside or in an area easy to clean, or you’ll deal with a furry tornado inside the house. Seren-Kitty at age 21 doesn’t groom herself anymore, so she relies on Karma-Kat’s help–and mine.
Target Problem Areas. Pay particular attention to mat-prone areas behind the pet’s ears, beneath his tail, and in the “armpits” and groin regions. Longhair cats also develop tummy mats.
Take Your Time. There is no rule that says you must comb or brush the entire pet at one setting. Space it out over several hours or days. Most dogs and cats have “sweet spots” they love to have scratched, so finish on the cat’s cheeks or the dog’s chest. End each session with a favorite treat or game so your cat or dog identifies grooming with good things.
Ask A Pro. If you aren’t able to manage grooming yourself, have it professionally done by a groomer or veterinarian. “Lion cuts” that shave wooly pets for the summer can prevent problem mats or hot spots.