Cat Hairballs: The Ugly Side of Pet Ownership!

Pet owners can usually find the bright side of any situation: their dog chewed through their couch pillows? Well, they needed updating anyway. Their cat rummages through the garbage to get to some yummy dinner scraps? A perfect time to become more responsible with your trash can. But there is nothing nice to say about hairballs. They are just a disgusting, unpleasant aspect of cat ownership. What are these nasty little things, and how can you clean them up? Better yet, how can you prevent them?

Hairballs: As Gross as They Sound

Hairballs happen. It’s a fact of feline life. Your cat grooms herself, and in the process, she may swallow loose hair. Usually, it passes right out of her system, but sometimes, strays start to collect in the small intestines or stomach. You know what happens next. That distinctive sound of your cat trying to “pass” the hairball, which she does by vomiting.

Sometimes, the hairball looks like just that: a thin, somewhat elongated ball of matted fur. Often, mucous and food accompany the hairball on its way out. Other times, the hairball causes an upset stomach and your cat vomits. In any case, you have a mess to clean up.

  • Remove the hairball. Some people use a spoon to scoop it up or a plastic baggie or paper towel.
  • If there is vomit, blot the spot to remove as much as possible.
  • Treat the area with a safe, enzymatic cleaning product/stain remover. Enzyme products are the most effective hairball and vomit cleaners and are always pH neutral making them generally very safe.
  • Saturate the spot, and let the product sit. How long depends on the product and on the stain. For an older, tougher stain, you may want to leave the product on for longer. Check the product instructions, and test it on a hidden part of the surface.
  • Wipe the product away with a clean cloth.

Your carpeting or flooring will be just fine. Now, what about your cat? Hairballs can cause a range of symptoms, from stomach upset and constipation to lack of appetite and diarrhea. Preventing them can help keep your cat healthy, and your home clean. Here are a few tips:

  • Brush your cat regularly to remove as much loose hair as possible, and then wipe with a clean cloth.
  • Try a cat food that is specifically formulated to help prevent hairballs.
  • Supplement your cat’s diet. Adding a scoop of canned pumpkin to her food, once or twice a week, for instance, boosts fiber intake and keeps everything regular. Some people also add fish oil or a bit of cooking oil to their cats’ food.
  • Make sure she has plenty of water.
  • If your cat grooms excessively, offer her new and exciting toys to keep her occupied.

Hairballs are usually not a cause for concern, but if your cat displays other symptoms (diarrhea, constipation, lethargy, etc.) call your vet for some professional advice. Otherwise, prevention is the best cure. That, and a good bottle of stain remover for the ones you can’t avoid.