You’re enjoying a quiet evening, lounging in your living room, when you hear a horrible rasping sound. “Cccchhh….ccchhhh…” You turn and see your cat in seizures. Some of you might panic. “What’s happening to my cat?” Veteran cat owners may recoil in disgust. “Oh no,” you think, “it’s another gross hairball.”
Cats often get hairballs in the summer. The heat causes them to shed hair, and being the neat creatures that they are, they will groom themselves. Unfortunately the hair can get caught in their throat and they will try to regurgitate it. It’s disgusting for us, but it’s also life-threatening for them. They can choke! Read more on how to prevent hairballs.
Groom them more often
Your cat can’t help shedding hair—that’s just the way they’re built. However, cat owners can help prevent the hair from becoming a choking hazard with regular grooming with tools that help control shedding. This is much safer than giving your cat a laxative to help him cough up the hairball. Laxatives, like all medicines, can have side effects, and wreak havoc on your poor pet’s digestive system (hasn’t he gone through enough?)
Increase your cat’s fiber intake
Even with regular grooming your cat will still ingest some of his hair. However, you can “smoothen” the way, so to speak, by adding fiber to his diet. Fiber acts as “sweeper” that cleanses his system of any clumps of hair that is traveling through his digestive tract. You can talk to your vet about a high fiber diet, or include a little mashed or canned pumpkin in his wet cat food about once a week. Your vet may also be able to recommend a cat food or a vitamin supplement that can help his body deal with hairballs.
Increase water intake
Water will also help your cat wash his stomach of hair clumps. Change water frequently and maybe add a second or third bowl of water in the rooms he usually stays in.
Watch out for signs of trouble
While some amount of hairballs is expected, do call your vet if you notice that your cat is frequently hacking, or if he coughs up masses that are shaped like cylinders. Also look for any changes in behavior or routine. Has he stopped playing or eating? Does he have less bowel movements (a sign of constipation)? Is his abdomen noticeably larger? It’s better to have him checked to rule out any complications, and since these are signs that your cat’s hairballs are causing him discomfort, you may want to talk about changes in diet. (Never drastically change your cat’s diet without talking to your vet.)
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