Hairballs and Licking the Carpet

Alana Stevenson, Cat Behaviorist, answers questions from Life with Cats readers.

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Q:
“Hi Alana. I have a female Calico, medium length hair, about 3 and a half years old. She will occasionally have hair balls even though we feed her Royal Canin food designed to control hair balls (it was worse before we added that to her diet). She only releases the hair balls when she’s alone (either at night or when my husband and I are at work). I’ve started noticing random places on our carpet where it is fluffy from her licking it repeatedly. New fluffy spots appear before and/or after the hairballs. I am not sure how to get her to stop licking the carpet (especially if we’re either gone or asleep). I am concerned because she started this behavior a couple years ago when we lived in an apt. After we moved out of that apartment, we had to pay to have the carpet replaced from all of the fluffy spots (long story- had a different deposit/sure pay situation, where pet damage was not covered). And now she’s doing it in the new apartment (and although we have the pet deposit in this new lease, I am unsure how they will handle the carpet situation when we do eventually move out). So I would rather find a way to get her to stop licking the carpet… Are there any signs I can look for to see if she is close to releasing a hair ball? Thank you!”
– Michelle D.

A: It is unclear the length of time she has had hairballs and the previous types of food she had before Royal Canin. Also since she is 3.5, at what age she began carpet licking. Have you seen her licking the carpet? You mentioned you never see her throw up a hairball, so presumably you find them. I’m unsure how you assessed or determined that she licks the carpet before and/or after coughing up hairballs and the length of duration between the two. I imagine if she was licking that much carpeting, she might get sick and you would see carpet in vomit or stool, especially if she was eating enough carpet to do damage. Was she also scratching the carpet?

Here are some things to consider. If she is actually licking the carpet and you have seen her and she is still doing it, question if there are any odors or scents on the carpet from previous tenants, pets, food by giving the carpet a good vacuuming and maybe steam cleaning (but without any chemicals). Make sure to take her to the veterinarian to rule out medical issues. Request blood work to begin. Often forms of Pica are due to underlying medical problems. Look into changing her food and the types of food she is eating, along with increasing her water consumption. Most pet foods are filled with by-products and cheap fillers.

Often times, cats fed very poor all dry food diets have more problems with hairballs. Very poor quality, stinky wet foods can also cause cats to vomit immediately after eating. By upping the quality of cat treats, wet food (and dry), and/or  adding or preparing  homemade diets for cats (consult with a holistic veterinarian), and by increasing or encouraging more water consumption, hairballs can decrease considerably. Adding a large ceramic water bowl or fountain away from food is a good place to begin. Cats prefer to drink and eat in separate locations (see Tips to Have a Happy Cat). Most cats when they are fed higher quality food and meats, and when they consume more water, shed less and vomit less. Giving them some greens to eat can also help. Cats prefer meadow grasses and lawn grasses, such as crab grass (just make sure the lawn is not chemically treated with toxic insecticides) over wheat grass or ‘pet grass.’ Adding probiotics to her diet may also help with digestion.

To help prevent or lessen excess hairs from shedding, brush her with a very soft bristled brush or a small flea comb. Small flea combs can be great for removing excess hair. Then take a damp wash cloth or paper towel and stroke her along her back, body and face. The damp paper towel will also remove excess hairs  that the comb missed. These would be the steps I would take to begin working on the problem.

Copyright © Alana Stevenson 2013

 

Alana Stevenson can be contacted through her website. She provides consultations by phone and Skype.

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1 thought on “Hairballs and Licking the Carpet

  1. I was fostering a Calico and the only way she liked to play was by biting hard. I googled the problem
    and was told to get a soft toy to put between her mouth and my hands and it worked VERY well.
    Our play was very pleasant after that.
    Judi

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