Hairballs in Cats

What did your kitty just deposit on the rug? It looks tubular, surrounded by clear or yellow fluid and hard to differentiate from which end of the cat it emerged. If you witnessed the episode you may have watched kitty start to wretch and gag and walk over to sit on the wood floor while positioning his head just onto the fine oriental rug to hurl this odd looking material onto the carpet, beating you by a hairsbreadth as you rush to place newspaper between the impending regurgitation and the rug. The medical word for a hairball is trichobezoar. Why do cats do this? Is it normal? Is there an impending problem?

According to Dr. Joanne Guglielmino, at Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine Hairballs are the unsavory by-product of a good, clean habit. As your cat grooms herself, she swallows a lot of the dead hair that has come loose. This is because tiny backward-slanted projections (papillae) on the surface of her rough tongue propel the indigestible hair down her throat and into her stomach. While most of this hair eventually passes through the animal’s digestive tract and is excreted intact in the feces, some of it remains in the stomach and gradually accumulates into a wet clump – the hairball.

According to Dr. Guglielmino, kittens and young cats are less apt to develop hairballs than older cats that, as well-experienced groomers, are likely to spend a good portion of their waking hours busily licking their coats. Some cats are, by nature, more fastidious than others in their grooming habits. Longhaired breeds – such as Persians and Maine Coons – are at significantly greater risk than shorthaired breeds. And the development of hairballs is more frequent in seasons of the year when cats shed their coats.

Vomiting a fur ball should not be ignored if it is happening as little as once every two weeks. It especially should not be ignored if your cat is retching a lot without bringing anything up, lethargic or losing weight. A severe life-threatening problem may exist. A fur ball can become lodged in the small intestine causing a blockage. Asthmatic cats may make a retching sound when they are coughing. Both these conditions need veterinary care involving radiographs and lab work.

In 2014 study on vomiting cats Dr. Gary Norsworthy came to the conclusion that a cat that vomits as little as every 2 weeks may have small intestinal disease, either inflammatory or cancerous. He came to this conclusion after endoscopicly examining stomachs of vomiting cats and finding that the stomachs were normal. When he ultrasounded those cats’ abdomens to measure the small intestine thickness and then biopsied the abnormally thickened parts 50% of vomiting cats had inflammatory disease of the small intestine and 50% had cancer of the small intestine.

Dr. Norsworthy’s opinion after his research is that we take vomiting much too casually in our cats and attribute it to them eating too fast.

How do we prevent fur balls? Dr. Jean Dodds, a veterinary immunologist who operates Hemopet Lab in California has some good suggestions for natural healing.

Diet

The cereal based corn and soy dry kibble can inflame the small intestine of some cats if they are allergic to corn and soy. These kitties may do better on a canned diet high in protein and containing no corn or soy.

Grooming:

Brush your longhaired cat regularly and gently with a soft or wire cat-grooming brush to reduce the amount of fur she has to ingest.

Omega 3 Fatty acids:

In the form of fish oils omega 3 FA is great for the health of the skin and to smooth fur ball through the system. Soluble fiber helps keep things moving. You can try canned pumpkin wheatgrass or psyllium seed husk powder.

Natural Fur ball remedy

Natural hairball remedies that are not petroleum based include slippery elm papaya or marshmallow. The first and last can be ordered online from herbal supplement stores. You can place a little on your cat’s nose or sneak a little into their favorite canned food. Slippery elm is a plant you can purchase dry and boil a little in water. It is tasteless and a teaspoon can be mixed into the cat food each day. It is known in homeopathic medicine to be healing for the gut.

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