All cats – except, perhaps, the Sphynx, experience hairballs. The culprit: their prickly tongue, which forces any ingested hair down a one-way street into their stomach, where the cat’s body finally recognizes that it is not food and wants to get rid of it.

 

The typical cat regurgitation of a hairball involves two spurts – one with a little drab of liquid, and the other, a wad of hair in a larger puddle of liquid. As long as the wad as come out, your cat is fine. She will not have lost her appetite, and you do not have to give her any medicine or take her to the vet. Stepping up your grooming of her should prevent most future problems.

But if hairballs seem to be a regular occurrence in your home, despite regular grooming, and especially if your cat tends to be constipated (look for hard, small stools), she may need a touch more lubricant and/or roughage added to her diet. This can take the form of:

  • A little bit of vegetable oil (such as olive oil) or butter, mixed into her food or as a separate supplement
  • Hairball-remedy food or supplements
  • A small amount (such as a half spoonful) of finely grated or cooked, pureed raw carrot or cooked, pureed sweet potato, pumpkin, or winter squash. For convenience, look for a jarred baby food version of this that is pure vegetable without any added salt or garlic; you only need a little bit at a time, so freeze it in spoonful-size dabs on a sheet of waxed paper and then store in an airtight container in the freezer (thaw before giving to kitty).
  • Cat grass (wheatgrass or other grass; avoid giving them alfalfa or other sprouts)
  • A pinch of ground psyllium mixed into the cat food

If your cat has stopped eating and is severely constipated, she may have developed a hairball that has gotten too stuck to vomit out. This is an urgent situation and requires a vet’s attention. In extreme cases, such hairballs may even require surgical removal. Obviously, prevention is key to keeping kitty in tip-top form, particularly if she has long fur.