If you own a cat and have walked bleary-eyed into a dark room to step in a squishy cold mess with your bare or socked feet, you are familiar with the problem of furballs (hairballs). Well, if it's that bad for you, imagine what it's like spitting one of those things back up!
A cat's hair is indigestible, but that won't stop your pretty kitty from grooming daily as she does, swallowing large amounts of her own fur. There are a few things we can do to help kitty to not endure such humiliation, however, starting with good grooming habits - not hers, yours. To decrease the amount of fur your kitty is consuming, give her a good daily brushing! Some cats are not keen on being brushed with hard objects, and you may fare better to just get in there with your hands to pull loose hairs off while you prepare her for the BRUSH. If you'd like to treat your kitty to a healthy groom when she doesn't favor your new tools, you have to give her time to get used to and accept them. Leave them near her favorite places so she can explore them at her leisure. Never just grab your cat and start brushing! Always let her smell the brush first, and when she leans in to rub her jowls on it, you're ready to start brushing, slowly. Just a few brushes once or twice a day will make a world of difference (wait until you see just how much hair comes out of that coat!).
Next, we move on to diet. You'll find many cat food products out there that claim to reduce furballs, and some of them work, and some of them don't. And just like humans, each cat has her own tastes, and no one is more finicky than a cat, right? So, the best way to test a hairball remedy for your cat is to start giving it to her to see if she'll even eat it. If so, continue to feed the same brand and flavor for at least 3 weeks, and take note of how often hairballs are discharged, any changes in stool texture (sometimes the food tastes good, but it doesn't sit well through the digestive process), and overall coat health. If all checks out, then you may have found another partial solution!
There are also different supplements you can give kitty to reduce the accumulation of hair in her belly. Aloe, cat grass (barley, wheat and rye grasses) and bulk fiber, such as psyllium husk, work to lubricate the digestive tract and move the hair along its path. Of course, you always have the option of commercial hairball lubricants, petroleum jelly, or you could just tempt kitty with a little melted butter (1/4-1/2 teaspoon once a day for a couple of days, until the yakking subsides - not more than a week, however) - most cats enjoy dairy and will happily snack on some buttery lubrication.
And believe it or not, exercise also helps. Movement always assists digestion. So, grab your kitty's favorite toy and give it a whirl, or just chase her around the house or yard whenever you have the chance. Her digestive health and your bare feet will thank you for it!
Kerri Shaw is a Naturopathic Doctor near Boston, MA. She has been practicing medicine for over 15 years incorporating homeopathy and herbal remedies, as well as applied kinesiology into her practice. She has found the best price for her patients on products that she doesn't keep on hand and can always recommend http://www.sageandwisdom.net for their outstanding deals and terrific natural pet products. For hairball remedies, visit Sage & Wisdom and search for "furball".