Photo by Jae Park
One of the wonderful things we all love about cats is their soft, delicate fur. When they ingest dead, loose hairs in the process of grooming, what usually happens is that they pass through the digestive system without any problems. However, if too much hair builds up in the stomach, it causes irritation of the stomach lining, and this when a furball will be produced.
Fur balls can be a recurrent problem for cats, particularly those from long-haired breeds. It is an unpleasant experience for cats, and symptoms generally include vomiting, unproductive retching, constipation and a loss of appetite. This article looks at how cats suffering from fur balls can be treated, and what can be done to prevent them becoming a problem.
Sometimes cats who suffer from furballs may eat grass and garden plants to try and medicate themselves. Grass causes them to vomit, which may also bring up the fur ball as well. Thus, if you see your cat eating grass, this may be an early indication that they are suffering from fur balls.
One thing owners can do to help prevent fur balls is regular combing of their cat's hair. This will get rid of much of the dead hair before it can be ingested. Fine-toothed combs are best for short haired cats, while wide-toothed combs tend to be more suitable for long haired cats. It's not advisable to use brushes, because they are much less effective at getting all the loose hair out.
One of the traditional remedies for furballs is petroleum jelly. A small amount is applied to a cat's paw, so the cat can lick it up. The molecules of petroleum jelly are too large to be absorbed, so they retain their form and act as a lubricant to help the ingested hair through the cat's digestive system and out in the normal way.
There are varieties of petroleum jelly in different flavours (such as tuna) which are designed especially for cats. These will make the jelly more palatable to cats, so are a good option if your cat shows reluctance towards this treatment.
Another common treatment for the condition is natural herb tablets. These tablets are a mixture of herbs including valerian root, dandelion root, and senna leaf, powdered and pressed into tablet form. It works as a gentle laxative, so it is generally given for the relief of constipation or to help treat cats suffering from furballing.
It is recommended that cats who are experiencing noticeable discomfort because of furballs are given one of these tablets daily. In addition, it is also a good idea to give cats who are prone to fur balls one tablet a day during their moulting period. The one caveat to bear in mind when giving herbal treatments such as these is that they are not suitable for pregnant or lactating females.
Once cats get rid of their furballs, they normally recover quickly, and are soon back to normal. However, it is important to be aware that your cat may be suffering from dehydration because of the vomiting, and may need a special diet for a few days.