Dear VetBabble: How Can I Help My Cat with Hairball Issues?
My cat has been attempting to cough up a hairball for a week, and while I’ve given him hairball control treats for the past 4 days, it doesn’t seem to be working. Are there any other suggestions to help my cat pass the hairball? What should I try before reaching out to my veterinarian?
Understanding Hairballs in Cats
Most cat owners are familiar with the sight of their feline friend curled up on the floor, struggling to cough up a hairball. Hairballs, known as trichobezoars, are a common occurrence in cats due to their self-grooming habits, causing them to ingest hair. While these unattractive hairballs can commonly be naturally passed through the digestive tract and eventually exited through feces, there are times when they remain lodged in the stomach, creating difficulties and discomfort for your cat.
To help manage and reduce hairball formation, it’s essential to understand more about hairballs. (Please refer to Hairballs and Cats: What Should I Know? for answers to frequently asked questions and preventative measures.)
Relieving Hairball Discomfort
In cases where hairball control treats haven’t been effective, it’s necessary to consider alternative options. As per your concern, there are some steps you can take to help your cat pass the hairball easier:
- Lubricating Supplements: Administering a teaspoon of mineral oil to your cat can work as a lubricating agent, helping the hairball pass through the digestive tract more smoothly. There are over-the-counter hairball remedies containing petroleum jelly or other lubricating ingredients that can also help.
- Lactulose: If mineral oil or over-the-counter remedies don’t work, you can ask your veterinarian about lactulose. Lactulose is a prescription medication that works as a stool softener, making it easier for your cat to pass the hairball.
- Monitoring Vomiting and Health: It’s important to closely observe your cat for any signs of distress or changes in behavior. Check out Why is My Cat Vomiting? for more information on reasons for vomiting in cats, and when to consult a veterinarian.
- First Aid for Cats: Always be prepared to provide first aid for your cat in case of an emergency. Our First Aid Guide for Cats offers detailed advice on handling various feline injuries and health issues.
- Consulting Your Veterinarian: If none of these methods are successful in helping your cat pass the hairball, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian for further evaluation and treatment. Prolonged difficulty or inability to pass a hairball can lead to more severe complications, such as blockages in the digestive tract.
Preventing Future Hairball Issues
Once you’ve successfully dealt with your cat’s hairball problem, it’s important to take preventative measures to reduce the occurrence of future hairballs. Here are some tips to keep your cat healthy:
- Groom Regularly: Regular grooming helps minimize the amount of hair your cat ingests during self-grooming. Brushing your cat’s coat daily, or at least several times a week, will remove loose hair and reduce the chance of hairballs forming.
- Improve Diet: Ensuring your cat’s diet includes enough fiber can help in reducing hairball formation. A high-quality, balanced diet with both dry and wet food options is optimal for your cat’s overall health, and specific hairball control formulas are available as well.
- Monitor Constipation: Make sure to keep an eye on your cat’s bowel movements and consult How Do I Help My Constipated Cat? for advice on dealing with feline constipation if required.
- Maintain Regular Vet Visits: Regular veterinarian check-ups will ensure your cat is in optimal health and address any concerns before they become larger problems.
By understanding hairballs, providing relief for your cat’s discomfort, and taking preventative measures, you’ll be well-equipped to deal with any future hairball occurrences. Your cat’s health and happiness are our priority, so we’re always here to help and guide you on your feline parenting journey.