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Feline Friday: National Hairball Awareness Day

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That blue bed is as hairy as Seren-Kitty!

Do you know what today is?  It’s National Hairball Awareness Day! RomeoTheCat and FURminator are once again co-sponsoring an event to bring attention to this big-hairy-deal.

Have you ever discovered the latest squishy “kitty creation” by stepping on it, barefoot, at 3 a.m.? Ewww!

Cats, and some dogs (Pomeranian owners, am I right?!) swallow fur during self-grooming. Hopefully it ends up in the litter box or yard. But when it comes out the other end, the cat vomits hotdog or cigar-shaped hairballs.

Cats spend 30% of their lives grooming.

 Shedding season increases the odds kitty will “urk” more often, especially in longhair cats. The techie term for hairball is a “bezoar.”   I warn you, don’t click that link until after breakfast. I’m not posting a picture cuz I don’t want readers to “urk.” (Turns out, humans get bezoars, too, Ewww!)

I’m fortunate that Seren has short fur, but even that can accumulate and be swallowed. We kid that fur in a pet home should be considered a condiment, but if kitty swallows too much, it stops up the system. Baseball-size hairballs have been removed from cats. Most cases won’t need surgery, though, and most hairballs can be easily eliminated.

That's a wad won't go into the cat, or stain my carpet on the way out.

The no-brainer solution is to groom kitty and pull off the fuzz before it gets swallowed. I have grooming tools–the dog Furminator (above) is awesome and works especially well on the Magical-Dawg. (I don’t even wanna think what size bezoars he’d produce!)

I received a kitty-size Furminator to test on Seren-kitty for this month. She is IN LOVE…I have the handy grooming tool next to my chair. Each evening Seren arrives for a session of lap-snuggling and purr-icity while the kitty Furminator massages her whiskers to tail. She has not “urked” up a hairball this whole month, ever since we began getting rid of the extra fuzzies.

Here are more ways to manage hairballs. Do your cats get hairballs? What do you do to prevent ’em? What about your DOGS and hairballs? Cats that groom dog friends increase their hairball risk, too. Do your fur-kids like or loathe grooming. What are some tricks you use to keep a handle on fuzzy-icity? Please share!

Groom the cat. The cheapest, easiest hairball cure 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.

Feed a hairball diet. A variety of commercial products are designed to prevent hairballs. They include extra nondigestible fiber. That helps push swallowed hair through the digestive tract, so it is eliminated naturally with each bowel movement.

Add some fiber. If you’d rather not switch foods, just add fiber to kitty’s regular diet. 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.

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. 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.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

18 responses »

  1. My two cats have never had a hair ball. I brush the short haired cat weekly with a zoom groom. She absolutely loves it. It’s like a cat massage to her. My Ragdoll cat gets groomed every morning when I wake up, with a kitten Furminator slicker brush. She loves it too. After I brush her, I hand feed her a handful of high quality kibble. We also feed them wet cat food. Some raw too.

    • My dog loved his Zoom Groom when he was a pup and then it disappeared–I suspect he ate it, LOL! Thanks for visiting the blog. Really there are any number of good products available to help control the “fuzzies” and starting cats young helps enormously. Seren has short fur but it’s amazing the amount of shed stuff comes off.

  2. The actual tips do not seem to be showing up on the linked page.

    In any case, I wish Anubis loved brushing as much as Simba does! Unfortunately thanks to his flea troubles as a tiny wee kitten (imagine the trauma of hundreds of the nasty little bugs crawling to escape all at once) anything remotely grooming-related makes him a bit squirrely now. He used to tolerate at least SOME brushing, but when his fur gets matted he resists it to the point where we have to pin him down to get the job done. Of course, he’s been matted CONSTANTLY lately because he won’t let us catch and brush him often enough. Takes two people, and a lot of angry yowling. Poor guy…

    • Thanks for the note about the tips not showing up–I’ve added them directly to the post instead.

      You might try rubbing some corn starch into the mats first before trying to comb them out, that helps separate out the hairs so it untangles more easily. Poor kitty…

      • I’ll have to keep the corn starch in mind, then! Good to know, we always keep some in the house anyway.

        Looking at the tips, for some reason I always thought honey was bad for kitties? Or is that just if it’s not diluted with something else?

        So the petroluem-based hairball treats ARE okay for kitties, then? I was leery since I know the remedies you get over-the-counter aren’t necessarily actually good for them, depending what you’re looking at. It’s so much easier to find a straight answer on remedies for people (though of course, with us we can also tell how we feel instead of having to guess like we do for kitty)

        • Yep, the OTC hairball stuff is okay–within reason. The thing is, a hairball can be symptomatic of a larger health issue. Just because there’s hair in the URK doesn’t necessarily mean that’s why the kitty URK’ed, it can have to do with digestion or renal/liver issues or all sorts of things. *shrug*

  3. OMG – I didn’t realize it was today!!!! Gotta plan the party!

  4. Great post and great information Amy!

  5. Jan says we kitties have a knack for finding the hardest to clean places to leave our deposits, so she likes the FURminator.

    • How true! My Seren-kitty has great aim, too, and once managed to target the printer, three books awaiting reviews, and the half-open file cabinet documents. Talent!

  6. Our Oscar does fine when he gets hairball meds two-three times a week. I skipped it for 8 days and he had one big hairball. He is beginning to let me know when he needs it even though he doesn’t like it.

    I asked our vet how often the clinic cat got hairball meds and she got them 2-3 times a week. That was how I set the timing for giving it.

    Our previous/late indoor-outdoor kitty would use grass when he didn’t have hairball medicine. Indoor kitties need the hairball medicine in my opinion.

    A friend did not quite believe my advice and had a near $400 vet bill over a hairball obstruction. Solution diagnosed by vet: daily hairball meds for awhile. Much cheaper and more comfortable for the kitties to give it preventively IMHO.

    Brush them too but don’t consider it the be-all and end-all. Brushing + hair ball med is my diagnosis.

  7. Happy Hairball Awareness Day!

  8. How appropriate your blog comes in a “Daily Digest” Hahahaha!

    Here’s more important information about this common cat ailment: The American Veterinary Medical Association wants owners to know that hairballs are not normal! Check out their podcast:

  9. Pingback: Hairballs in Cats: Prevention Is the Answer | Paws Kennels Blog

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