A common question from cat owners is "How do I stop my cat throwing up hairballs?". To answer this question, we first need to determine why your cat is vomiting hairballs. Once the cause has been identified, we can then move forward with treatments.
It is important to note that cats are somewhat designed to consume hair as they groom themselves, each other and through the ingestion of small furry creatures such as mice. So why do some cats vomit hairballs and some cats do not? Your veterinarian should ask you detailed questions in regards to the health of your cat to obtain more information. For example, cats that have anxiety, allergies and or even fleas may appear to be "over-grooming" and therefore ingesting more hair than usual and this can contribute to your cat throwing up more hairballs than usual. Also, cats that have intestinal disease (Inflammatory bowel disease/IBD, intestinal cancer, esophageal disease, and others will often cause an increase rate of hairballs in cats.
So, when should an owner be concerned about the amount of hairballs their cat is vomiting? Well, every cat is different but generally speaking, if your cat is vomiting 1 hairball per month it is usually not a concern but you should bring this to the attention of your veterinarian.
The good news is that there are treatments available to prevent hairballs in cats. To be successful however, it is important to first identify the cause of the hairballs. For example: If your cat has an allergy and is therefore itchy, she may reveal this through excessive grooming (i.e. over-grooming). The over-grooming will result in more hair being ingested and subsequent vomiting. Treating your cat for allergies will result in less itchiness and grooming, therefore resulting in less hair consumed.
Many cat owners will inquire about using Laxatone to treat hairballs in their cats. Laxatone is designed to provide lubrication so it is easier for your cat to pass these hairballs. Most veterinarians do not believe cats lack any intestinal lubrication so we often do not recommend the use of laxatone in cats. Dangerously, some cat owners will use mineral oil to serve the same purpose, to enhance intestinal lubrication. This is certainly not recommended as mineral oil has the potential of causing a life threatening pneumonia if aspirated.
In some instances, a diet change will be beneficial. Consider using a diet that is either hypoallergenic or a gastrointestinal diet. These can often help to address any potential dietary causes that are contributing to your cat vomiting hairballs. If your cat is vomiting hairballs multiple times per month, reach out to your veterinarian as they will be able to help identify potential causes and then implement treatment to keep your cat happy, healthy and hairball free!