Today on the LazyPaw Animal Hospitals blog, we’re discussing an inevitable part of living with cats. Of course, I’m talking about—cough, guff, hack—excuse me! Hairballs…
Is it normal for cats to get hairballs?
Yucky hairballs are actually a side effect of your cat’s earnest grooming routine. When your cat licks and grooms themself, tiny structures on her tongue grab onto loose, dead hair. The cat then swallows, and while most of the hair passes through the digestive system, stray hairs can eventually build up in the stomach. When hair collects and becomes too big to digest, the cat vomits, and voilà—you have a hairball.
Should I be scared?
Cats coughing up hairballs may look and sound like they are coughing up a lung, and the process can be unsettling (remember when Puss in Boots was interrupted by one in the movie classic Shrek 2?). Because hairs pass through small cavities between the stomach and mouth, hairballs are generally thin and tube-shaped, not round. The hacking, retching and gagging is a normal process when coughing up a furball. As long as the hairball is mainly hair, you don’t need to worry too much.
What can I do to prevent hairballs?
Sometimes, especially in long-haired cat breeds, fur balls just happen. However, you can help your cat avoid them by grooming her regularly so more loose fur goes on a brush than in her stomach. You can also give your cat “hairball formula” food with higher fiber that keeps hair moving through the system. If your cat is a compulsive groomer, discourage her from grooming as often by redirecting the behavior to other activities such as play or quality time with you.
When is it time to bring her to the vet?
If your cat can’t stop vomiting or gagging, shows a lack of appetite, becomes constipated, has diarrhea or is lethargic, it’s time to bring her to your local vet clinic or animal hospital.
Hairballs may be gross for you and seem harrowing for your kitty, but prevention through extra grooming and a more tailored diet should have her feeling better in no time. If Fluffy is still having problems, make an appointment with us at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals so we can take a closer look.