Tips for helping your cat avoid hairball-related problems

Besides cleaning out the litter box, one of the most unpleasant chores related to indoor cat care has got to be dealing with hairballs. While most cats will faithfully deposit all their waste in the litter box, they may cough up a hairball just about anywhere—on an expensive rug, in a hidden corner where you won’t find it for weeks, or even right in the middle of a heavily trafficked area where someone is likely to step in it. Here are some tips to help you understand why cats get hairballs and how you can make this process as natural and comfortable as possible for your feline friend.

Like it or Not, Hairballs Are Part of Life

As unpleasant as hairballs are for humans, they can be much more uncomfortable for cats. Most cats can successfully rid themselves of the excess hair swallowed during grooming by vomiting or passing the hair through their digestive tract. In some cases, however, hairballs can become “stuck” inside the cat. You may notice your cat repeatedly gagging over the course of a day, appearing constipated, or even having diarrhea. In most cases, the cat will pass their hairball on its own in short order. If not, you should definitely pay a visit to your veterinarian. In rare cases, hairballs can become lodged in the esophagus or the intestine and may require surgery to correct.

How to Handle Hairballs

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to try to reduce the frequency and difficulty of passing a hairball:

Brush your cat: The fewer loose hairs your cat encounters during its daily grooming routine, the less frequently it will develop a hairball. If you have a long-haired cat, try to brush it daily as long-haired breeds will be more prone to hairballs otherwise.
Try a hairball care diet: Certain types of cat foods are specially formulated to reduce hairballs. These foods typically seek to improve skin and coat health and reduce shedding while also adding extra fiber to the diet to help the pass hairballs through your cat’s digestive tract more easily.
Consider a hairball remedy: Hairball remedies seek to lubricate your cat’s digestive tract to further aid the passage of hairballs through the intestine. Definitely seek the advice of a veterinarian before using any kind of hairball remedy.
Address excessive grooming: Sometimes cats engage in excessive grooming behaviors out of anxiety or boredom. Naturally more grooming results in more hairballs. By giving your cat a new toy or making a point of having daily play time, you may be able to distract the cat from excessive grooming and reduce the size and frequency of hairballs.

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