What are furballs, and how to prevent them?

Pet owners have so many advantages that we won’t be able to list them all. But fur clumps are definitely not among them! These slippery clumps of tangled fur are probably well-known to cat owners, and you’ve likely encountered them while walking barefoot around the house. Furballs are generally harmless, but for some animals, they can be fatal, and they should be treated with care and, if possible, prevented.

Furballs are most commonly found in cats, although they can also occur in rabbits. Both of these animals groom themselves in the same way: their tongues make them collect dead fur and swallow it. Since the hair is not properly digested, it often gets tangled in the stomach, from where it is expelled. Unfortunately, rabbits lack this regurgitation mechanism, and fur clumps in these animals can be fatal, causing dehydration and death. If you suspect your rabbit has a furball, seek veterinary help immediately.

They are much less lethal for cats, although they can cause discomfort and lead to problems if not treated. If your cat is prone to furball formation, prevention is key to your pet’s health. Below, we’ve listed some of the simplest ways to prevent furball formation.

Regular grooming is especially important during shedding seasons when your cat sheds its thick winter coat. Daily care for your cat, especially if it has longer fur, removes excess fur and significantly reduces the amount it swallows during grooming. Even in the summer months, daily brushing not only helps you bond with your cat but also significantly reduces fur accumulation on its belly.

Hydration: Ensure your cat always has clean drinking water. The more hydrated your cat is, the easier its digestive system can work and remove swallowed fur, allowing it to pass naturally through the body without forming furballs.

High-quality dry food: Maintaining a good level of fiber in your cat’s diet ensures a healthy digestive system that operates regularly and reduces the likelihood of furball formation. You can even buy food specifically designed to prevent furball formation in the stomach, which is particularly helpful if your cat regularly suffers from them.

Lubricating gels: If you have a cat that still experiences furballs despite regular grooming, you can use a special gel or paste to prevent the fur from getting stuck in the stomach. These are often flavored and serve as a tasty treat for your cat, with some containing probiotics that optimize your cat’s digestive health.

Reducing the frequency of furballs requires minimal effort and significantly enhances your cat’s comfort (and the comfort of your bare feet in the morning!). If you’ve tried the above measures but your cat still suffers from regular furballs, consult your veterinarian as there may be an underlying issue.

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