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Celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day

This year, the Royal Wedding has nothing on National Hairball Awareness Day, especially when you have upwards of 250 cats under one roof like we do here at the Cat Adoption Team.

Hairballs, also known as trichobezoars, are a fact of life when you have a cat. Most cat owners will begin to see them more frequently as the weather warms and shedding increases.

Down and dirty about hairballs:

  • During grooming, cats swallow the loose hair. How much depends on the length and density of your cat’s fur. How much you brush your cat will affect the amount swallowed and ultimately converted to those yucky hairballs. 
  • A cat’s tongue has little spikes on it that act just like the bristles of a brush picking up the loose hair and propelling it into your cat’s digestive system to be expelled.
  • As the weather warms, a cat’s undercoat loosens and sheds (more loose hair). However, your indoor cat will shed year round, but will also have a spike in shedding when it warms up outside.
  • Normally the hair will pass through the cat’s system with no problem.
  • Hair that accumulates will collect in the digestive tract and eventually the cat will vomit it back up.
  • The hair often does not come up alone; any food in your cat’s system may come up too, which causes even more of a mess for cat owners.
  • Hairballs are not “balls.” When they come back up, they are tubular masses of wet mushy hair.

Preventing hairballs is not rocket science:Brush your cat routinely. If your cat is not amenable to brushing, there are special gloves you can get that act just like a brush but feel more like you are petting your cat.Try specially formulated “hairball” cat food that is available at a pet supply store. There are also “hairball” treats. These foods contain more fiber to help the hairball mass go down and out the correct way and end up landing in the litter box not vomited up in the middle of your living room.Give your cat some yummy tasting hairball/intestinal lubrication to move things in the right direction. Brands include Petromalt or Laxatone. You can also give your cat a small dollop of petroleum jelly. Our best advice is to follow dosing instructions on the package. See if your cat will lick it directly from our finger. If not, avoid putting it on her paw as she can fling that stuff off with a quick flip causing it to land right in the middle of your antique lace table covering. Rub the prescribed amount on the shoulder where it is easy for your cat to lick off but not redistribute to your walls.

Getting rid of the hairball stain left on the carpet:

Hairballs are generally expelled with whatever else was in your cat’s stomach (such as undigested cat food) and, in our experience, they never land on the easy-to-clean tile floor. Therefore, you will have a stain on your carpet, rug, or even comforter.

  • Pick up and dispose of the solids.
  • Use a commercial spot cleaner or try club soda to dab away the stain.
  • Urine-off and Nature’s Miracle are also good spot removers. These are found at pet supply stores.

If your cat continues to vomit excessively, PLEASE take him/her to the veterinarian.

About Cat Adoption Team

Cat Adoption Team (CAT) is the largest cat shelter in the Pacific Northwest. We offer adoption, foster care, and veterinary services to homeless cats and kittens.

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