Got hack? Must be Hairball Awareness Day

What cat owner doesn't love the soft purr of your feline friend cuddling on your lap. Watching the fun they have unravelling a roll of toilet paper. Or that soft squishy feeling of stepping in a hair ball, barefoot on your way to the bathroom in the morning.

Oh, that last one, fun? Not so much.

For all who are familiar with that cringe-worthy hacking sound and what comes next, we have: National Hairball Awareness Day. 

When I first heard about yet another awareness day, I thought for sure it was cooked up by hairball interests - makers of special anti-hairball food or brushes. But there's a serious side to hairballs. Last year the National Museum or Health and Medicine of the Armed Forces at Walter Reede Army Hospital held an exhibit in conjunction with NHAD to help people understand why hairballs form in the stomach. On display were nine human and animal hairballs, (or trichobezoars), like the one above from an ox.

But for those without oxen who must cope with what their kitty expells, there are some solutions. As a multiple cat owner  - of both long and short-haired varieties - I've been a fan of malt paste products both to help prevent hairballs from occuring or help free them once they develop. Some cats do like the taste and will lick it off your fingers.

Some recommend feeding your cat a little canned pumpkin with their meals once or twice a week. It helps cut down the amount of hair clogs in the stomach. (Anyone had any success with this approach?)

Frequent brushing to cut down on the amount of hair a cat ingests during cleaning. I have always used metal or bristle brushes and combs, but recently had the opportunity to try out the shedding product called the FURminator, a tool for cats and dogs with a stainless steel edge and ergonomic rubber handle. The toughest part was getting the tool out of the indestructible plastic case - you know the kind that slice people's fingers and send them to the emergency room on Christmas Day.

The FURminator certainly does collect fur. You have to run the blade gently over the cat's fur. Too much vigorous brushing can irritate the skin the directions say. But after watching the demonstration video on the company's web site, I clearly was being too gentle. Perhaps the neatest feature is the ejecter button that pops the hair out for easy disposal, unlike metal bristle brushes where pulling hair out can leave you with knicked fingers. I didn't have the chance before Hairball Awareness Day (April 30) to give it more than a few trys, so I can't gauge whether it does, as the packaging says, reduce shedding by 90 percent.

I will report back if I have fewer soft and squishy "presents" in the weeks ahead.