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Hairballs... Gross!

A Woman Grooming a Grown Cat

Remember that day when you decided that a long-haired cat was just soooo cute and you HAD to have her? How could you possibly say "no" to such a little cute puffball? Well, since that day, you must also be able to associate with the sound of a somewhat possessed, regurgitating, gagging cat (yes... THAT sound!) doing some strange tribal dance with her head down, heaving in the middle of your most amazing floor mat, eventually leaving you with a warm little gift straight from her belly. Yum.

Cats like to groom - a lot! Any waking opportunity and you'll see them preening themselves and all that licking of hair has to go somewhere. Since hair is not digestible, it normally pass through the stomach and intestines as fecal matter. However, it can (and does!) get stuck down in there, accumulating over time into a small (or not-so-small) glob of hair. Now, some breeds are obviously more prone to hairballs than others, but most cats will experience the effects of hairballs at some stage. Surprisingly, cats are not the only animals to experience a trichobezoar (meaning: a mass of hair), as hairballs are scientifically referred to; even rabbits and cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas and deer get hairballs too. (Before reading this article, you thought deer were little darlings, didn't you, Bambi.)

So, how to stop it? Well, you can't! It's a part of nature and your little puffball will continue to get them throughout her life. However, if she is suffering from hairballs a few times a week, things could be more serious than first thought and a trip to the vet is highly recommended.

If you see your cat trying to vomit but unable to bring up the hairball, or if you notice a lack of appetite or constipation, these may be signs that perhaps a larger-than-normal hairball has formed and that poor little Puffy is unable to remove it no matter what she tried. And some hairballs, if VERY large and compacted, will actually require surgical removal and can be rather serious medical circumstances - now this doesn't happen very often, so don't panic just yet, but it is good to be aware of the full potential of these damn things.

To reduce the risks of hairballs, especially in long-haired cats, think prevention with assistance. You see, the easiest and most effective way to keep cat hairballs at bay, at least a little bit, is by helping your cat with her grooming efforts. A steel-toothed brush run thoroughly through your little meower's coat once a day (or whenever you can) will do her wonders and she'll love you for every second of this lovely attention (well... most cats will, anyway). And oh the benefits! A nice little stress releaser for us humans AND every strand of hair you remove with the brush is one less down her throat... and one less for that hairball! Good, right?!

Now, in addition to the brushing, destressing (for us) and bonding (awwwwweeee...), a healthy diet and exercise also play an important part in this. Food which is high in fiber is recommended, and some brands (Royal Canin and Eukanuba, for example) offer hairball preventative food. To read some further information on cats and their dietary requirements have a look at this really interesting article “Wet food for your Cat – The Better Choice” under ‘The Catteries’ section at DKC found right here at

Further still, if you notice your cat is having difficulty coughing up hairballs, you can also introduce a hairball relief gel, which is basically petroleum jelly flavoured like, yes, you guessed it... fish! (What else would a cat want!!?) The gel helps to lubricate the intestinal tract which in turn helps to shift the hairball - however, again, if you see your cat struggling to regurgitate that hairball, take a trip to your vet.

Keep the tribal dances and THAT sound to a minimum by taking the time daily to groom little puffball. Give her the love she deserves (well, MAYBE she deserves it) and ensure she's offered a healthy high-fibre diet. She may thank you for it (have you ever met a cat that thanks?) but you'll rest a little easier and so too will she... probably. :-)

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