Hairballs who likes them?

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Cats love to clean and groom themselves…but in the process they can develop harmful hairballs. Here’s more on how to prevent hairballs.

What are hairballs?

Trichobezoar or hairball is a common phenomenon of cats. Sometimes, a cat may produce noises, which sound like coughing, they will heave and lower their head and vomit a soggy mess. These are hairballs.

How do hairballs occur?

Cats clean themselves by licking. The tongue is equipped with rasps that capture loose fur that needs to come out. When the cat is young, he does not know how to spit loose fur from the rasps of the tongue, which then occurs due to swallowing actions. Thus hair is swallowed. Hair is indigestible, so what goes down must either pass along with the feces or come back up. Too much hair going down produces hair coming back up – hence hairballs.

How is it harmful?

If a cat is unable to rid himself of gross accumulations of hair by vomiting, the hair may block the intestines, a medical emergency which could result in death if not alleviated, usually by surgery.

Which cats are more prone?

Obviously long haired cats are more likely to form hairballs. Older cats loose the extreme raspage of their tongue, and thus pull less fur off and swallow it but they may be unable to adequately clean themselves.

How to treat hairballs?

The treatment for either hairballs, or an older cat who can no longer groom adequately is to help your cat with grooming. Teach your cat to love being groomed by you by talking softly to him, being careful not to pull the fur, and rewarding your cat after grooming.

How to groom kittens?

Young kittens must inspect everything, usually with their mouths. Like babies, they are easily distractable. Groom your kitten with two inexpensive plastic fine tooth combs. As soon as you start grooming, your kitten will sieze it for inspection and chew it in a few moments. Shift to the other comb and get some work done till the kitten is done inspecting the first comb. Then he will release that comb and seize the new thing, and chew on it. Recover the first comb and use it to groom till the distraction of the second comb chewing is done, and the kitten inspects the new thing (which is the first comb). In this fashion it is quite possible to get an entire combing job done.

Gradually the kitten will be less interested and stop worrying about the combs. When you have reached the stage at which he no longer impulsively bites the comb, you can shift to metal combs. By not reprimanding the kitten for biting the comb, you are teaching him that it is okay to relax and not to worry about being groomed.

What are the tools for grooming?

A good tool for grooming and teaching cats to like being groomed is a rubber brush. A fine tooth metal comb can be used to comb out mats if they are small and to comb out fleas. Scissors should be used to cut out mats that will not groom out easily. But here’s a word of caution: unless you have a very calm cat, have another person steady the cat while you use sharply pointed objects like scissors on him.

Another important specialized tool for eliminating undercoat is called by the brand name ‘Furminator’. It is a rake that really penetrates and takes off fur very well. This tool should be used on heavily shedding cats of any hair length, and any cat who gets hairballs. It is a good tool for all cats during shedding season.

Thus, proper grooming can help prevent hairballs in your kitties, thus making them clean and healthy.

(Kiturah Humphrey, featured columnist of Cats & Kittens, is a retire physician. From Siberian Gatos Cattery in the US, she is responsible for cattery policies and choices that include a programme to eliminate Corona Virus, HCM, Bartonella, Toxoplasmosis, etc.)

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