If you're a cat parent, hairballs are a fact of life. Cats bathe themselves with their tongues, which means they swallow hair. Unfortunately, it doesn't always stay down, although anti-hairball food is one way of preventing this. Consult your veterinarian before making changes to your cat's diet.
The Fat Content of Hairball Control Food
According to VetInfo, hairball-control cat food works to control hairballs by aiding digestion. It is typically low in fat, which helps lessen insoluble substances in the stomach and intestines because they can lead to indigestion. Because it's typically low in fat means it shouldn't be any more fattening than other types of dry cat food.
The Fattening Potential of All Dry Food
However, cats who are fed dry food only, of any kind, are slightly more prone to obesity than those who are fed wet food. There are two reasons for this. For one, dry food of all kinds are typically higher in carbohydrates than wet food. Two, dry food can be free-fed, or left out at all times, while wet food obviously can't. This allows cats to be able to munch on it whenever they want.
A Downside of Hairball-Control Food in Particular
A particular downside of hairball-control food is the effect of the higher fiber that makes it effective. It usually contains higher levels of vegetable fiber, which helps the stomach digest its contents, including swallowed hair, so the intestines move waste out more efficiently. However, this higher level of fiber can put cats at risk for cystitis, or urinary bladder inflammation, a painful condition that can lead to potentially lethal bladder stones. The additional fiber requires more urine to process and expel from the body, which also puts cats at a higher risk for dehydration.
Other Methods of Hairball Control
There are methods of preventing and controlling hairballs other than changing your kitty's food. One is frequent brushing. This, of course, helps remove loose hair and prevents your cat from swallowing it while grooming. There are also products made especially for preventing hairballs. They are typically in paste form and are sold in tubes at pet, grocery and dry goods stores and online. You can also give your cat a pat of butter or dab a bit of margarine or petroleum jelly on his paw once each week to help swallowed hair go down more easily and stay down.
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