Recently, I wrote an article, "Cat Hairballs – The Dirty Little Secret" that drew a bit of attention and more questions. As a result, this article is a follow-up to that article, and addresses some of the new, related concerns. Specifically: "Homemade remedies for hairballs!"
Ideally, the best way to deal with hairballs is for a cat to not even get them. In that case, in all probability, your cat would have to be bald-or near to it! Because, hairballs are caused by the cat's grooming habits. Although diet and lack of exercise may also play a part in some of kitty's intestinal issues.
Now, if your cat is long-haired, or not as meticulous about himself as he could be, or if he has a really round tummy so that he sometimes falls over when grooming, like one of ours, such a kitty either can't get to all his fur or he's now just inclined to "let himself go!"
In situations similar to these, you'll want to "step in" and make it a habit to brush and comb him daily. This brushing activity is useful for several reasons; to name a few (although this list is not at all inclusive):
o You'll create a pattern of "loving and bonding" with kitty
o Your kitty will appreciate that you can "reach spots he can't!"
o You'll help to keep the fur off your furniture and clothes
o And you'll help kitty to remain somewhat free of hairballs
Note: The following tips are suggestions that may or may not resolve your kitty's issue. They are not intended to take the place of regular trips to and contact with a vet.
Hairballs are caused by large amounts of fur that kitty "took in" during one, some or all of his grooming sessions, and that then subsequently block his digestive tract. Usually, it takes quite a few days of licking before a hairball accumulates enough to be either "expelled" onto something or become a problem for kitty and his tummy.
Typically, your cat and his hairball will part ways as a "natural course" of daily living; Sometimes, though, it's necessary to "help that hairball along its path." That "path" ideally would be a normal course completely through kitty's digestive system.
In instances where that's not possible you can help the hairball move by using commercial remedies found at the pet store, perhaps in the pet section at the grocery store, from your vet, or at a pet outlet online.
Home remedies you might try with your kitty include:
o A little bit of melted butter, as little as maybe a half-teaspoon, just once a day, for a couple days. That ought to take care of the hairball.
o Shortening. On occasion, many, many years ago, we would put a tiny bit of shortening on our finger tip and then dollop that onto the end of Muffy's nose, our cat at the time. Which she would then lick off.
o Petroleum jelly. This is inexpensive and effective, but it may be difficult getting your cat to think it likes it and swallow it.
If you decide to use any commercial hairball products, be sure to follow label directions closely. Three of our "boys" love those commercial remedies and will often follow us around if they see us with the tube.
Fiber. A list of remedies for hairballs wouldn't be complete without including a push for plenty of fiber, cutting the "empty" calories (junk food) for your cat's diet, and seeing that he exercises. Yes, cats "gotta do it," too.
o Exercise. Now, he doesn't have to get up and move to the newest Wii video or chase about like a "mad cat," but moving about more frequently than to the food bowl, the water dish or the litter box, will help the hair move through or out of his system.
o Dry and canned cat food. Read labels to learn the fiber content and which brands to choose.
Ask your vet to suggest those with good fiber percentages. These will help your cat get through any problems that might arise regarding elimination.
Also, watch your kitty's water intake; as in make sure he drinks plenty to drink! This will help to alleviate any problems with "regularity" that might arise.
Having said all this, if you notice kitty is listless and / or continues to not want to eat or drink water and he just overall acts like he may not feel good, get him to the vet as quickly as you can. It may be that a hairball has moved into his digestive tract that he hasn't been able to lose. In a situation such as this, your kitty may need the surgical intervention of your vet.