Hairballs in Cats

Many owners know that cats can have a hairball or two, but do you know why? Better yet, do you know how to get rid of them? This blog can help answer those cat hairball questions.

While there are many jokes surrounding hairballs, they are no laughing matter. Hairballs in cats aren’t just unpleasant to clean up, they can cause some serious blockages in the intestinal tract if they aren’t removed—one way or another.

A hairball results from the grooming routine of your pet. When a cat grooms itself, tiny hook-like structures grab dead hair and loose hair. The animal then swallows all that hair! It sounds gross to us humans, but as the saying goes, “a cat has got to do what a cat has got to do.” For the most part, the hair that your pet swallows usually passes easily through the entire digestive tract and ends up in the litter box. However, the problem is when some of the hair remains in the stomach and doesn’t get passed through. That particular bunch of hair results in the vomited hairball that you may have had to pick up from your floor. While hairballs are more likely to occur in long-haired breeds, they can also form in short-haired breeds as well.

Typically, you will know when your cat is about to throw up a hairball. The symptoms include retching, gagging, and hacking. A hairball should appear shortly after these signs begin. (Tip to make clean-up easier: When you notice the gagging, calmly place an old piece of newspaper below your cat’s mouth. That will catch the hairball and save your floor.) If you notice that these symptoms have been going on for a long time—and especially if they don’t produce a hairball—contact your veterinarian immediately.

While hairballs aren’t curable, you can reduce your pet’s risk of getting them. An easy way is to make brushing your cat’s fur part of a regular routine. This will considerably reduce the amount of dead hair that its tongue will pick up. There are also brands of cat food that sell a special hairball formula which reduces the amount of shedding.

Best wishes in making your home a hairball-free zone!

What do you do about your cat's hairballs? Share tips with us in the comments below!

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