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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 15655
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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Various Cat Food

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Various Cat Food

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Now your question is a wee bit unclear. You have described a kitty with an overgrooming issue.

Did you wish to discuss this issue itself?

Or are you looking for a diet change for Ginger?

Or, since you are using hairball reduction diets, does Ginger have vomiting issues that you'd wish to discuss?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

A little of all three. I need to know if there is anything or hairball gunk...that I can use. She is throwing up numerous hair balls. I thought the food and gunk would help but I think I am missing something.

Hi again,

I am happy to discuss all three, though I am highly suspicious that Ginger's overgrooming is causing the other two issues and needs to be focused on first.

That said, I will need a bit further information on her vomiting.

How often does Ginger vomit?
Only hairballs?
Any food, bile or other types of vomit?
Any pattern to her vomiting (ie time of day, after or before meals, etc)?

Any change to her stools?
Any signs of weight loss?

Does she still maintain a good appetite?
Any increase in her drinking?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

She throws up hairballs only. No particular time. She is stressed as a rescue cat. she was abused, neglected, overfed, beaten. She is 6 months new to us and is around 7ish. She eats dry and moist.

Thank you for the further information regarding Ginger.

She is so lucky to have had you to safe her from what sounds to be a horrific situaiton.

If Ginger is only vomiting hairballs, then this makes disease processes that would cause nausea and then vomiting less likely in her case (which is good). Rather in Ginger’s situation, her GI signs are being triggered by her overgrooming which is likely induced by anxiety/stress (very understandable given her history). This means that the hairballs and vomiting are just a side effect or secondary issue here. This also means that hairball diets and hairball treatments can only hope to manage and lower the occurrence of GI signs but will not be able to solve her hairball issue. Instead, the anxiety overgrooming needs to be tackled.

Now I understand that Ginger’s current situation is much better then where she was previously. Still if she underwent a lot of stress then, a lot of change when she came to you, and is a gentle sensitive soul (which the Himalayan breed usually are) then she may still be struggling. In a way, the behavior is an outlet for their frustration of being powerless to change their situation. As well, even with so much behind her, it is quite possible that part of her overgrooming is also now motivated by habit (like we might chew our nails when we are stressed but then start doing it without stressful stimuli). Therefore, even with a peaceful life ahead of her, she cannot stop this behavior (similar to the post traumatic stress soldiers experience after coming home from terrible battles). And this is a very common for kitties and leads to continuous baldness in those 'easy to reach' places (ie flank--example belly--example, tail, and legs) and hairballs.

Just to make a small note here, I would like to note here to direct you to an interesting wee article from an owner who's cat started overgrooming due to stress ((example/article)). It is quite a nice wee read and has some good pictures of how significant hair loss can be due to this.

So in this situation, we do want to take steps to reduce her anxiety and help her let go of her coping habit. To do so, the ideal first step is to consider using some de-stressing tools to help provide her with a general peaceful environment and reduce her anxiety. In these situations, we often we will use Feliway, also known as Comfort Zone in the US pet stores, which is a synthetic cat pheromone that helps to relieve stress. This can be used as a spray or a plug-in diffuser. There is also a diet on the market called Calm by Royal Canin. This contains a number of supplements that have been found to provide stress relief to cats. As well, there are nutritional supplements like Zylkene (example ), which use a casein protein to soothe anxious cats. Some people have even found treats like Composure (LINK) or Bach Flower Remedy (LINK) to be helpful for settling kitty tension. And as these are not 'drugs', you can use any of these together to help settle her anxiety.

Overall, while they are the sign you appreciate the most, her hairballs and GI signs are actually a knock on effect of her stress induced overgrooming. Therefore, the key to decreasing the hairballs is to decrease her drive to overgroom. And the key to this is to reduce her stress and help her cope with her new life. So, I would suggest the above supports for Ginger. If you find she is still struggling and her overgrooming doesn’t settle then that would be your cue to get her vet involved and consider drug therapy to address this for her. And in that case, there are drugs that your vet can dispense to decrease feline arousal and dampen her drive for anxious overgrooming. These can be short term and long term treatments depending on the cat and often will help you settle the behavior for her.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

Dr. B.


Remember that if you have any lingering questions or concerns, please reply so that we may continue our conversation. I will be happy to work with your further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. Please remember to rate my answer when you are satisfied (with4-5 stars or a happy face) so that I may receive credit for my assistance. Thank you & have a great day. : )

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