Friday, April 30, 2010 | Cat expert: How to avoid hairballs | Cat expert: How to avoid hairballs
by Julia Schmalz, USAT

Today is National Hairball Awareness Day. Dr. Arnold Plotnick of the veterinary hospital Manhattan Cat Specialists spoke with me yesterday about the dangers of hair balls and how to avoid them. He is also the editor of Catnip, The Newsletter for Caring Cat Owners and is a writer for Cat Fancy magazine.

Question: Are hairballs more common in certain kinds of cats?

Answer: Long-haired cats are more susceptible, the Persians, Maine Coons, but any cat can get them.

Question: How can they harm cats?

Answer: They have the potential to be dangerous, causing an intestinal obstruction. Swallowing a lot of hair can also cause constipation problems.

Question: How does an owner detect them?

Answer: Most cat owners have had the experience of stepping on a hair ball, which is one way to know cats have a problem. Also, if a cat does exceptional amounts of grooming that is a sign that they could have problems.

Question: What can an owner do to prevent them from forming?

Answer: The best approach is to groom cats regularly with a tool like the Furminator. For short hairs, groom them two to three times a week. For the long hairs, it's best to do it every day.

Question: What else can help the cat if hairballs have already become an issue?

Answer: Diets higher in fiber can remove any clumps of hair balls, helping to pull them through the intestines. A little bit of canned pumpkin, once or twice a week, added to their food adds fiber, and cats to many people's surprise like pumpkin. There are also commercial foods that are higher in fiber.

Also, keep your cat well hydrated. Help encourage cats to drink water by putting water in places where the cat will least suspect. It might stumble upon the water, and think, ah, a place to drink.

But ultimately the best thing to do is groom your cat. That is also a wonderful bonding time with the cat that is a very special time for both of you.
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