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C2011-02

Dear Christopher Cat

My cat Max throws up hairballs every week, and sometimes I step on them when I get up in the middle of the night. Laxatone isn’t effective. What can I do about this problem?

Christopher Responds

My first inclination was to say, “Turn on the light or wear slippers,” but then I realized that wasn’t your real question.

I’m heartened that you recognize hairball vomiting is not normal for us cats. We’re designed to ingest hair –- after all, we groom ourselves and eat furry prey –- and the hair should move through the gastrointestinal tract with ease.

A cat that vomits hairballs usually has a motility problem, which may result from intestinal inflammation. Petrolatum-based hairball remedies like Laxatone are rarely effective, because hairball vomiting is not caused by a deficiency of petrolatum.

The intestinal inflammation that underlies the motility disorder sometimes is provoked by a food allergy. If that’s the case, Max may improve after a few months of a diet restricted to a premium food that contains a protein his body hasn’t encountered in the past, such as rabbit, duck or venison.

While you’re trying this dietary treatment, give him a probiotic and comb him daily to remove loose hair.

If these measures aren’t effective, ask your veterinarian to do a thorough work-up to determine the cause of his hairball vomiting and therefore the appropriate treatment.

 

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