Cats are beautiful creatures and their fur is generally shiny, magnificent and very clean. This is because cats are extremely fastidious groomers, spending a considerable amount of their time grooming and keeping themselves clean. Studies have suggested that on average, cats spend about 4% of their total time grooming and 8% of the non-sleep/rest time grooming!
Why do Hairballs occur?
Cats self-groom with their rough tongue and forepaws to systematically clean their entire body. Licking stimulates skin secretions that keep the coat waterproof and shiny and the saliva deposited on the coat helps to keep cats cool during warm weather. If you live with multiple cats, you may also notice that when they get on well together some spend time grooming each other (while resting in their favourite sleeping spots).
Unfortunately, one drawback to the cat’s meticulous grooming habits is the formation of hairballs in the digestive tract: due to the backward-facing “barbs” on a cat’s tongue - which act like a comb - the hair is caught and swallowed.
Swallowed hair can accumulate in the stomach. Some of the hair will pass on through the intestinal tract and then passes uneventfully in the faeces. Hair that does not pass on through collects and is formed by normal digestion movements into a ball or sausage shape. Once it becomes large enough to collect like this, it is unlikely to pass down the intestinal tract. Therefore it can be regurgitated (vomited) or cause an obstruction.
Although this is a natural process, it causes concern for many cat owners. Coughing, gagging, or regurgitating within one or two hours of consuming a meal are signs that your cat may have trouble passing a hairball.
Cats who self- or allo-groom excessively or are shedding may be more susceptible to hairball formation and regurgitation.Long hair breeds of cats are also more likely to have hair balls compared to shorter haired breeds and may suffer from intestinal obstruction by hairballs even at a kitten age.
What Can I do?
You can help your cat in reducing hairball formation, by:
- 1) Brushing your cat regularlyto remove shedding hair. In this way you will help to prevent excessive hair ingestion.
- 2) Feeding your cat with foods specifically designed to aid in hairball passage.
Diets that are higher in fibres help to reduce the number of cat hairballs. The fibre pulls the hair through the intestines so that it is deposited in the faeces rather than be regurgitated as a hairball.
In the Purina PRO PLAN cat range Housecat and Derma Plus (dry food), Nutrisavour Housecat (wet food) are all formulated to help minimize the formation of hairballs in cats and facilitate the elimination of hair through the intestine thanks to high level of fibres.
If your cat is experiencing frequent hairball regurgitation, see your veterinarian for advice on appropriate cat hair ball remedies and treatments or diet recommendations.