Due to the backward-facing barbs on the cat’s tongue, the hair he grooms must be swallowed. Some of this swallowed hair passes through the digestive system without a problem. If he swallows too much hair, the cat may vomit up a tubular-shaped glob of wet hair know to those of us who end uup stepping on them as hair balls. Not all hair balls get vomited up or passed with the stool, though. Some swallowed hair ends up trapped in the intestines, causing a blockage. If you notice your cat passing rock-hard feces at all, it could be due to a partial or complete hair-ball blockage. Call your veterinarian immediately.
Some cats never have a problem with them. But hair balls aren’t just reserved for long-haired cats; short-haired cats do get their share of them too.
For cats who have a problem with hair balls despite your diligence, there are hair-ball-prevention products available. Basically a laxative, the get products come in a tube and are usually malt-flavored. Their mineral oil-based so they aren’t absorbed by the body and just work as a lubricant. They shouldn’t be used more than twice a week, though (unless advised to do so by your veterinarian), because mineral oil inhibits the body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Squeeze out a one-inch strip onto your finger. Many cats like the taste and will lick the gel off your finger. If you cat doesn’t, you can open his mouth and slide your finger along the edge of his upper teeth to deposit the get onto the roof of his mouth. Some owners of reluctant cats try rubbing the laxative onto the paw, knowing that the cat will inget it when he grooms himself. I’ve seen more hair-ball laxative splashed across walls because the cats decided to shake the stuff off rather than use their tongues. It can also be very messy on the fur, so if you feel you must resort to this method, place only a small amount on your cat’s paw until you’re sure he’ll lick it off. If a dose of hair-ball laxative once or twice a week isn’t sufficient, talk to your veterinarian about increasing the amount of fiber in your cat’s diet.
Learn more about your cat’s basic health care and purchase Think Like a Cat from Catnip today.