Cats do a wonderful job of grooming themselves without our help. In fact, they groom not only to keep their fur clean and to distribute the natural oils produced by their skin, but also to clean wounds. As your cat grooms herself, her rough tongue removes loose and dead hair. Unfortunately, the hair is almost impossible to process and builds up in the cat's digestive system, forming a hair ball. Most of the time, a cat will cough these up, or occasionally, theyll pass out with stools. The real worry, however, is that the hairball will create a blockage that can cause your cat to lose her appetite, become constipated or have trouble eating.
For most cats, hairballs arent a problem. To help your cat remove loose and dead hair, comb her on a regular basis daily if you can. Before combing your cat, try wiping her down with a damp towel, as this will remove a great deal of the loose hair. You can also provide your cat with some natural remedies that will help prevent hairballs and keep them from becoming a problem.
First, however, try to keep any potential skin irritation to a minimum. For example, fleas can be very irritating to the skin and will cause your cat to scratch and lick herself. Keeping fleas away keeps her more comfortable and less likely to swallow her own hair.
In addition, providing your cat with some extra fiber will help her to eliminate hairballs more easily. Flax, psyllium husks, oats and oat bran, catnip, wheat, barley, pumpkin and green beans are all good options. Add a small amount of one of these choices to your cat's daily diet. For example, you might try mixing a small amount of canned pumpkin puree with your cats wet food twice a week. Just be sure you choose canned pumpkin puree or pumpkin baby food, not pumpkin pie filling.
However, dont think more is better when it comes to fiber too much can cause diarrhea. Fiber is better at helping with hair balls in the lower digestive tract than in the stomach. Fiber also absorbs water, which can make your cat's urine more concentrated and make her more vulnerable to a urinary tract infection.
In addition, most commercial hairball products are made from some type of shelf-stable sweetener and fat product, as well as additives and preservatives that can be harmful to her health. Instead, try giving your cat a bit of mayonnaise or butter to help grease the wheels in her digestive system. Limit the amount though, as these can contain a significant number of calories.
Many owners have also reported success using a small amount of petroleum jelly. You can give it to your cat as a treat or rub a small amount on her leg so that shell lick it off. Another common household product that can help your cat pass hairballs is Crisco All Vegetable Shortening. Whatever you do, dont use cod liver oil or mineral oil.
Finally, if your cat lived outdoors, she would naturally consume some grass when she needed help coughing up a hairball. For this purpose, there are a number of cat grass products available that allow you to grow a small amount of wheat grass. Make this available to your cat, and shell self medicate as needed.