By Dr. Ian Kupkee
Mankind has been fascinated for thousands of years by the regal and dignified nature of domestic cats. Yet in spite of their mystique, many of our feline friends are plagued by the rather inelegant problem of hairballs. Hairballs happen when cats ingest too much hair during the self-grooming process. Allergies, skin diseases, stress, and external parasites are just a few reasons why cats may shed enough hair to present a problem. If your cat is losing weight, refusing food, or vomiting hair more than once a week, itâ€™s time to see your veterinarian for a checkup.
Most of the time, however, hairballs can be controlled by making a few simple changes at home. Daily brushing can greatly reduce the amount of hair your cat ingests. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to their diets can mitigate shedding, but supplements must be specifically labelled for use in cats. Products intended for humans often contain artificial sweeteners that are toxic to pets. Additionally, your kitty may respond to a diet that is higher in fiber, or one containing fewer potential allergens. Ask your veterinary healthcare team to recommend a suitable diet for your individual cat. Since hairballs can occasionally lead to life-threatening blockages which require a surgical fix, itâ€™s best to intervene sooner rather than later. Minor adjustments at the first sign of trouble are often the key to preventing a hairball horror.