Thursday, 2 February 2017

‘How can I reduce hairballs?’ and other veterinary FAQs

In our latest live Facebook Q&A, Cats Protection vet Dr Sarah Elliott answered a variety of veterinary questions from curious cat owners. Here are just some of the topics discussed:

Question: My female domestic shorthair cat is coughing up hairballs a couple of times a week, is there anything I can do to help reduce this? We brush her, though not every day, and she eats a good diet I think – kibble mainly, with a bit of wet food. Any advice appreciated.

Answer: Cats often vomit up furballs, which occur after the cat consumes hair when grooming. These hairs become entwined together and irritate the stomach lining – they can be identified as clumps of hair in the vomit. Your vet may be able to advise you on diets and supplements which can be given to help ease the passage of furballs. Also daily grooming to remove any dead hair will help.

Grooming a ginger cat
Daily grooming can help reduce hairballs. Credit: istockphoto.com/Aksenovko

Question: One of my cats has really dry skin. Can you suggest anything I could give to him for it? He gets oily fish.

Answer: Dry skin can be caused by an allergy, so I'd run this past your vet and see if they can take a look at him for you. A good balanced diet will help with skin repair – a good quality commercial diet is normally already supplemented with important nutrients for the skin, for example omega 3 and omega 6. Remember the number one cause of any type of skin problem in cats is always fleas first! So make flea control your first priority.


Question: There is a feral cat on the farm that we would like to try to domesticate, any tips or suggestions that might help?

Answer: Feral cats should be looked upon as a wild animal. Cats have a socialisation window of between two to seven weeks old and if they do not encounter people and the home environment during this time then they will always be fearful. It is contrary to the welfare of a feral cat to confine them and try to tame them.

Your local Cats Protection branch may be able to assist in neutering this cat. Neutering will help prevent future unwanted litters and will improve the health and welfare of the feral cat in question. Check out our website www.cats.org.uk/find-us for more information on how to contact your local branch.

You can read more about feral cats in our Feral cats leaflet too.


Question: I've just got three kittens, they are about seven months old and have been eating the same food all their short life. Two of them seem to be getting diarrhoea and they have a little bit of bloody mucus in their stool. They seem to be active while playing and seem happy enough but for this issue. They do eat all of their allocated food, sometimes more, so I've tried to measure it and give them a daily amount in the morning which does last all day. Any advice would be greatly received.

Answer: Diarrhoea can be caused by a number of things, both infectious and non-infectious. It sounds like your kittens might have colitis or large bowel inflammation, as usually cats with this kind of diarrhoea do not lose their appetite or vigour. Common causes include worms and dietary changes. Stress can also be a major cause of diarrhoea in cats.

I would recommend that you get your cat checked by your vet if the diarrhoea has persisted for more than a few days. In the meantime, starting a bland diet such as plain boiled chicken or white fish may help, and make sure they have been wormed with a product your vet recommends. The following leaflet may be useful: Digestive disorders – vomiting and diarrhoea.

Ginger cat eating
Most cats have a healthy digestive system, but mild upsets are not uncommon. Credit: istockphoto.com/deyangeorgiev

Question: My cat has been licking the floor and tables recently. Is there something he is missing in his diet? He's is a four-year-old indoor cat and quite healthy otherwise.

Answer: This could be worth checking with your vet, just in case it relates to a medical problem. The vet will be able to check he is not losing weight and that his gut generally feels ok, and this may rule a few things out. Some cats are compelled to lick and taste random things, a behavioural trait known as 'pica'. You can find out more about it here.


Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For more cat care advice, please see www.cats.org.uk/cat-care or consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's feline experts a question about your cat? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: chat with Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow on 23 February; or vet Dr Sarah Elliot on 9 March. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

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