How do I reduce the risk of my cat developing hairballs?

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First, you need to understand what a hairball really is. It’s a cigar-shaped object of matted fur (and sometimes food or other items) that the cat develops through her grooming.

In fact, grooming is probably the biggest way she gets them. When your cat grooms, she licks and her tongue has little grooves so the dead fur gets caught in the tongue and passes through the GI tract. She can’t spit out the fur, so the only thing she can do is swallow it. Usually, the hairballs are just eliminated, but sometimes, they do build up and then the only way the cat can get rid of it is to vomit.

Unless you have one of those hairless breeds, sooner or later, you’ll find a hairball on your carpet or sofa. Yuck!

You can reduce her chances of developing one, though. Here’s how:

• Groom your cat. Most cats enjoy being brushed, and the bonding that develops during cat and human during these brushing times is an added bonus. There are even special brushes that double as de-shedding tools; many cats enjoy the free “back-scratching” that goes along with the grooming, and many been able extract huge piles of cat fur just after one or two grooming sections. It really is like her own personal spa!

The more hair you can get off your cat by brushing, the less she will swallow. Brush your cat regularly and then wipe you’re her down with a damp cloth to remove hairs missed by the brush.
• Hairball products. If the problem still exists, you can also use petroleum-based products (such as Laxatone) that act as a laxative and lubricant to facilitate the passage of hair-matted hair through the intestine. These products, which are pleasant tasting to cats, can be fed in paste form or applied to your cat’s paws to allow your pet to lick it off.
• Hairball remedy treats or food. You can also give your cat treats containing mineral oil to break up the hairballs. Some pet food companies now manufacture food for cats with recurrent hair or fur ball problems. Ask your veterinarian what she or he recommends.

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