It can generally go without saying that owning pets comes with many responsibilities. After all, you are taking care of another living creature. It is up to you to provide food, water, and care for your pets, and the care for those pets can come in many different forms.
For example, certain dog breeds require near-daily grooming and combing. This is a form of care that you will have to account for when you choose to invest in a dog that has a high-maintenance coat. Because most pets require some form of special care, people who want a mostly independent animal often go for cats. Cats don’t need daily grooming and they do not need to be taken on walks several times a day.However, cats still require certain accommodations. The biggest example of this is that you are going to have to learn how to deal with hairballs.
Because, rather than you taking care of your cat’s grooming, cats will groom themselves. Their tongues are specifically barbed to pull dead fur away and remove tangles and any bugs that might be caught in their fur. This means that a fair bit of hair is swallowed, as it doesn’t really have anywhere else to go once it’s on your cat’s tongue.
Hair is not something that is meant to be digested, so it ends up sitting in your cat’s gut until there is simply too much. When too much hair accumulates, your cat will have a hairball. When all is said and done, nearly all hairballs that cats have are just a normal byproduct of cats grooming themselves. It is still important to know how hairballs affect your cat as a whole.
Should You Worry About Hairballs?
In the majority of all hairball situations, you won’t have to worry about the hairball being unpleasant or harmful to your cat. For most cats, especially those that have high-maintenance coats, hairballs are a regular, if not common occurrence. There are still some situations you should keep an eye out for. There will always be the slim chance that something can and will go wrong with your cat and its hairballs.
One example of a worrisome situation is if your cat is lethargic, refusing to eat, and tries to throw something up without success. In this situation, your cat is likely suffering from more than just a hairball in the stomach that is being stubborn. When a cat begins turning down food, then this is a sign of a serious health problem and your cat needs to be seen by a vet urgently, especially if it has gone on for more than one day. If you hear that your cat is trying to throw something up, you should always give it a few tries to see if the cat succeeds, or if you need to make a call to your local vet.
In some rare cases, rather than having your cat successfully puke out a hairball without any other concerns, the hairball in the cat’s stomach can actually begin to move down the digestive tract. This means that instead of regurgitating the hairball, the hairball is moving into the intestines where it is almost guaranteed to become a blockage. A blockage in the intestines is a potentially life-threatening situation (in all animals, including cats, and not just people). This is something that only a vet can diagnose, and there will often be other symptoms involved before things become lethal.
Because most people never hear of a cat coughing, a lot of people confuse the sound of a cat’s asthma attack with the sound of unsuccessful vomiting. If you know that your cat is at risk for respiratory infections, has asthma, or has been around other cats that have respiratory infections, there’s a chance that the “puking” that you are hearing might be caused by the violent coughing motions a cat’s body has to go through. When you first contact the vet, you should remember to describe the sound your cat is making to the best of your ability, as this might help the vets prepare the right care for your pet.
What Causes Hairballs?
A cat hairball is exactly what it sounds like. It is a ball of cat hair that accumulates from your cat grooming itself. As mentioned earlier, the barbed tongue on cats makes it much easier to pull away dead fur and to remove bugs and other pests from your cat’s coat of fur. Because cats don’t have the ability to actively try to spit out the hair they pull from their coat, their only option is to swallow the hair. Because the digestive system was designed to digest nutritious foods and hair is nothing more than a strand of fiber, hairballs can be very hard on the digestive tract. When the hair accumulates enough, the cat will regurgitate it back up, creating the pile of puke that no cat owner wants to come across.
While it is not normal for a cat to have a hairball on a daily basis, as cats can digest small amounts of hair, most cats will have a hairball on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. If your cat has a higher-maintenance coat or has a condition that affects how much the cat grooms itself (anxiety, parasites, and skin diseases), then you can likely expect a cat to puke even more often than this.
One thing to remember about cats and their hairballs is that all cats will respond differently to the sensation of needing to puke. Some cats will cry, likely in discomfort. Other cats simply begin making their characteristic loud retching. You, as the owner of your cat, know what is normal and what isn’t. This will help you determine if your cat’s issue is urgent or not, as many vets will be willing to inform you on the best way to do things.
How Do Hairballs Affect Cats?
Unfortunately, much unlike dogs, cats are well-known for their aloofness. This means it can be hard to gauge just how much a hairball is affecting your cat’s comfort, your cat’s health, and so on. As mentioned above, one of the ways that hairballs affect cats is that different cats are going to have different warning sounds if they feel a hairball coming up. Some cats cry and yowl while others will just start with the retching noises. Some cats will stay low to the ground, trying to find a hidden place to fish for duck food.
How Can You Make It Easier for Your Cats?
While hairballs are usually not too disturbing for most cats, it surely isn’t a pleasant sensation to throw something back up. Thankfully, there are a few different ways that you can make the whole process easier on your cat, so that nobody has to suffer any longer than they have to. There are plenty of homemade remedies as well as commercial-brand remedies, depending on which you prefer going for.
A fair bit of cooking ingredients actually have been proven to help cats alleviate their hairball problems. Olive oil, butter, pumpkin, and fiber tend to come up often when people talk about trying to treat their cats. Specialized low-hairball diet cat food has been studied extensively to make sure that your cat can benefit in any way possible, so that weights of mass can be lifted.