Preventing hairballs—or their aftermath—helps keep cats healthy (and floors clean).
This April 25 marks the ninth year cat lovers will celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day. It is interesting to note that felines aren’t the only hairball expellers; rabbits do, too. So do cud-chewing animals such as cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer and antelopes. And—wait for it—people, too! A human hairball is called a trichobezoar. It’s common in people who compulsively play with their hair and swallow it.
Now, this is not a day you want to celebrate by being greeted by a big hairball presented by your cat. A celebration would be NOT waking up to a hairball on the rug.
Most cats are able to expel hairballs by vomiting them up. But often that is the tip of the iceberg of hair—so to speak. Ingested hair can cause a serious blockage in the intestinal tract and lead to all sorts of complications.
It’s so important to remember that while cats are self-groomers, they still need help from their pet parents, especially if the cats have long hair and, also if they are elderly and simply are not agile and mobile enough to groom themselves properly.
There are lots of excellent grooming tools on the market that help get rid of thick undercoats. I am always telling my friends with cats that grooming should be considered a fun way to spend quality time with their cat rather than a chore. My cats really enjoy being massaged with a hand mitt, which picks up the loose hair as your brush.
For owners who need to deal with their cats’ ingested hair, there are products, such as Petromalt Hairball Relief Gel from Sergeants PetCare, which can help alleviate the formation of hairballs by coating the digestive tract to prevent build up—they also act as a laxative. It’s simply a matter of putting a dollop on a front paw and letting the cat lick it off. For really fussy cats, put a blob on their lower chin and let them take over from there.
For anyone wanting to know more about hairballs, the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) in Washington, D. C., has a virtual hairball exhibition on its website. You can learn why hairballs develop in the stomach and see examples of them from various animals, including humans.
There are also craft books such as Crafting with Cat Hair, which shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly and require no special equipment or training.
For the past couple of years, there have been all kinds of hairball events, including a celebrity lookalike competition where people were asked to brush their cats and take the fur and style it into a celebrity. I took part last year and got my cats’ shedded fur to look like Howard Stern—well sort of….
On a final note: when you’re stressed and want to pull your hair out, remember it’s simply a phrase, not a call to action. Brush your cat regularly instead!
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats