Q: Please help me with my cat’s hairballs! She wakes me up whenever she throws one up and I feel terrible for her.
A: Consider yourself lucky that you’re a light sleeper. Some of us get up in the middle of the night and squish on them as we pad over to the bathroom in our bare feet. Yuck!
While they’re undeniably gross, hairballs are actually normal and, as carnivores, cats are especially good at vomiting up thing that should not be in their stomachs –– like all the hair that accumulates there in the normal course of their daily toilette.
In any case, the timing of your question is apropos. This year and every year the U.S. pet industry sets aside the last Friday in April so we can collectively contemplate the deep mysteries of the hairball (technically known as a trichobezoar)
Call it a marketing tactic designed to sell more hairball remedies, but veterinarians everywhere are undeniably on board with Hairball Awareness Day (on April 27). The simple take home message? Hairballs can be bad in some cases.
For cats who throw one up more than once a week, hairballs can mean more than just a household annoyance. Chronic vomiting, malnutrition and surgical intervention are in no way unheard of. If frequent hairballs are the case, your cat deserves a vet visit to make sure she’s OK. But for the moderately afflicted, there are some simple remedies we recommend:
▪ Daily “brushing” sessions. I recommend that all cat people get their kitties addicted to daily brushing from a very early age. The Fulminator is an especially effective tool.
▪ Petroleum jelly-based products. For those who suffer more than others, daily petroleum-based hairball remedies are often the best solution. An inch of this tubed stuff every day can help.
▪ Hairball formula foods. If you happen to have cats who won’t accept anything they didn’t think of first, hairball formula foods are a reasonable idea. Infused with petroleum jelly-like ingredients, they can often do the trick when more direct alternatives just aren’t doable.
▪ Address the underlying problem, if any. Allergies and other skin diseases can lead to over-grooming, excess hair ingestion and hairballs.
▪ When all else fails, groom her! There’s always the possibility of frequent bathings and even full-body clip-downs to keep all that hair from balling up inside her.
▪ Ask your vet!
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.