According to Dr. Debbie Davenport of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, some 50-80% of domestic cats experience hairballs at least once per month. In fact, hairballs are the number one reported health concern among cat owners, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is such a thing as National Hairball Awareness Day.
If this problem has ever happened in your home, you know that it can be extremely unpleasant, and it’s certainly no fun to clean up. However, in most cases, it’s entirely normal. Hairballs are a result of the meticulous grooming behaviors that you see in your beloved feline friend. The ingested hairs are irritating to the gastrointestinal lining, which causes the gagging and vomiting that you see when your cat is trying to expel a hairball.
While it’s pretty challenging to avoid hairballs altogether, it’s possible for you to reduce the frequency or severity of the incidents. For example, if you have a long-hair cat, you may find that regular visits to a groomer will mitigate your hairball problem a bit. If that’s not an option, try making regular daily brushing part of your cat’s home routine.
Changing your cat’s diet may also help with your hairball problem. Today, just about every cat food manufacturer offers some form of hairball control diet, and you can find a variety of flavors. Of course, you never want to switch your pet’s food suddenly, but if the hairballs are a significant problem in your home, it’s worth asking your veterinarian how you can make a safe and gradual switch.
While you’re speaking with your vet about diet, be sure to speak with him or her about the frequency and general nature of your cat’s hairballs. In rare cases, frequent hairballs and excessive vomiting can be indicators of a deeper problem, so you want to give your veterinarian all of the information they need to make the distinction between what is normal and what might require additional diagnostics.
The idea that there is a National Hairball Awareness Day may sound funny, but raising awareness about hairball management is a great way for the veterinary community and pet owners to come together and give cats what they need to live happily and comfortably.