Ask the Vet

Question: I have a 1-year-old long-haired cat. How do I keep her groomed and keep her free of hairballs? Are hairballs bad for an animal’s health? — Vicki

Answer: Any species that ingests hair or fur can be predisposed to hairballs, and sometimes they can even require surgical removal. It is not normal for cats to get frequent hairballs. Cats are groomers by nature, and their gastrointestinal tracts are meant to pass the hair that they normally ingest. If a cat gets frequent hairballs, it is a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about the possibility that your cat may be experiencing pain, stress, illness or ectoparasites. An article with more information:

Other than keeping her healthy and flea free, the best thing you can do is get your long-haired kitty used to grooming by teaching her that it can be a positive experience. Metal combs tend to work better than brushes to pull out the loose hair, but it is very important to use a tool that does not stress her out. Be very gentle and patient, especially if there are any matted areas that need to be combed. Depending on the cat, it may be better to do multiple short grooming sessions rather than one long session. If a cat will not allow brushing and becomes extensively matted, shaving the affected areas may be required. Here are some more helpful tips for grooming your cat:

— Dr. Betsy Kemble

Dr. Betsy Kemble is owner and veterinarian at Patient Paws Mobile Vet, a small animal veterinary house call service in the greater Santa Fe area. Services offered include overall wellness, vaccinations, minor urgent care and in-home euthanasia. Patient Paws is fear free certified and believes in a holistic approach, taking into consideration the mental health as well as the physical health of its patients. Visit

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