Just when you thought you knew about all the major holidays, here comes Midlands Humane Society to throw you for a loop.
Yes, April 30 was National Hairball Awareness day. I feel pretty comfortable going out on a limb here to admit that no one is celebrating this holiday.
Let’s think of it as more of an “awareness” holiday. Hairballs are most often associated with cats, but other animals such as rabbits, cattle and even llamas can get hairballs.
In technical terms, these icky, sticky elongated pieces of hair goo are called “trichobezoar.”
You may have referred to them by a choice four-letter word when you find a hairball regurgitated on places you’d rather not talk about, like your nice comforter, beautiful rug (that just arrived after a long struggle of which to purchase from Wayfair) or maybe even your couch.
It’s also usually an inopportune time when hairballs strike, such as midnight, 3 a.m. or your 6 a.m. morning greeting as you sleepily climb out of bed to shower and your bare feet find your cat’s “present” near the foot of your bed.
Other than a hairball being a gross nuisance, should you worry?
Well, yes, in some cases as it can indicate a problem with your cat’s health. Cats tend to fall the most common victim of a hairball because, let’s face it, they spend a lot of time snoozing and grooming. The sharp, albeit tiny, barbs on a cat’s tongue help to pull loose or dead hairs from their undercoat to the surface while giving themselves the fifth bath of the day.
Long-haired cat breeds may have the biggest problem with hairballs simply due to the sheer amount of hair. During grooming, some of the hair ends up in their digestive system. Most of the time it passes on through to the litter box. Other times, it accumulates, and the cat can’t pass it and needs to regurgitate it.
When might hairballs indicate a serious health problem?
If you notice your cat produces a lot of hairballs or if you observe excessive gagging, coughing, hacking, vomiting, a loss of appetite, lethargy, unusual stool consistency — including diarrhea, constipation, or a high amount of hair in the stool — then it might be best to consult a vet.
Cats who frequently regurgitate their hairballs may have an underlying medical condition such as inflammatory bowel disease or even cancer. It will give you peace of mind to consult your vet who already has a history on your cat’s medical conditions.
Hairballs can also cause an obstruction, if they get too large, and you cat will need medical assistance.
Cat owners can really be their feline friend’s ally by doing a few simple things. Take time to groom them with a soft, bristled brush or a cat grooming mitt. If your cat is not used to being brushed or combed, introduce them to it slowly.
Petroleum-based cat treats can help cats pass their hair the normal way — through their stool — by lubricating their digestive system a bit to keep that hair moving. You can even purchase certain cat foods that are specially designed to reduce hairballs by improving skin and coat health. These foods are intended to reduce shedding hair and itchy skin while also adding fiber to their diets.
Keep your feline friend hydrated, as regular water consumption tends to help keep the digestive tract in tip-top shape.
MHS Pets of the Week:
Princess is a 5-year-old spayed female domestic shorthair. She is a big gal looking for her forever home.
She is front declawed and looking for a home without a lot of visitors. Princess isn’t a huge cuddler, so she needs an owner that will be okay with just being in her presence.
Stormy is a beautiful 5-year-old German shephard mix with the prettiest long-haired coat. Like all of us — she has things she likes and some things she doesn’t.
She prefers to live in a single pet household, meaning no other dogs, cats or other small animals. Children with all their energy makes her nervous, so an adult-only home would be best.
Stormy has a history of guarding toys, food and her people, so she needs an adopter that is willing work on her training to work through those issues.
Duke is a 5-year-old Australian shepherd mix. He has been a very sweet boy while at MHS and seems to be social with other dogs.
He is not suitable for apartment living and would do better with more room to run. Duke comes across as very loving and can even catch his treats.
Sox is a 5-year-old spayed female domestic shorthair who is looking for a second chance at a sunny window.
Make sure you take advantage of the Bissell Pet Foundation’s Empty the Shelters event that runs from May 5-9. Select pets will have a $25 adoption fee. What a great deal, as that is the price we charge just for a microchip.
Also, we thank everyone for contributing towards Do Good Week. We raised $9000 (including our match) and received some great product donations too.
We are open Monday to Friday noon to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Masks are recommended while in the building.