When your cat grooms itself, tiny hook-like structures on its tongue catches the loose hair, which is then swallowed.
Most of this hair will pass through the digestive tract with no problems. But if some hair stays in the stomach it can form a hairball.
Usually, your cat will then vomit the hairball up to get rid of it.
If you have had the pleasure of cleaning up a few of these hairballs around the home, you will noticed they are actually tube-like in shape rather than round. This is because the hairball passes through the narrow esophagus on the way out.
While most cats will produce hairballs at some point in their lives, keep an eye on them to make sure it doesn’t happen all the time.
Cats that are throwing up hairballs all the time may be experiencing something more serious.
Hairballs in cats are more likely in long-haired breeds, such as Persians and Maine Coons. Cats that shed a lot or who groom themselves compulsively are also more likely to have hairballs. You may have noticed that your cat didn’t have hairballs as a kitten, but developed them as she grew.
3 Hairball Remedies
Nothing can be done to totally prevent hairballs in cats, but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood your cat will have hairballs or reduce their frequency.
1. Groom your cat regularly. The more fur you remove from your cat, the less fur that will end up as hairballs in her stomach. Combing or brushing your cat on a daily basis can be an effective way to minimise hairballs, and it can also provide a fun way for you to bond with your cat. If you can’t get your cat accustomed to brushing, think about taking her to be groomed.
We have a professional groomer at our Arana Hills Veterinary Clinic on Tuesday’s, and Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday at our Fernlands Veterinary Practice.
2. Give your cat a specialised “hairball formula” cat food. Many pet food manufacturers now make hairball-reduction cat foods. These high-fiber formulas are designed to improve the health of your cat’s coat, minimise the amount of shedding, and encourage hairballs in cats to pass through the digestive system.
3. Discourage excessive grooming. If you suspect that your cat’s hairballs are a result of compulsive grooming, try to train your cat to do another enjoyable activity instead of licking his coat. This might include teaching him to play with a new toy on his own or finding a fun toy you can play with together.
Symptoms of Hairballs in Cats
It can be disturbing to watch (and hear) your cat eliminating a hairball. Some common hairball symptoms include hacking, gagging, and retching. Usually, your cat will then vomit the hairball in relatively short order.
If you notice the following hairball symptoms, be sure to contact us, as they could indicate that a hairball has caused a potentially life-threatening blockage:
- Ongoing vomiting, gagging, retching, or hacking without producing a hairball
- Lack of appetite
When to talk to your Vet
While many felines experience hairballs, it should not be a common occurrence. If your cat is regurgitating frequently, with or without hair, something more serious may be going on. If you are concerned about the number of hairballs your cat is producing it is worth making an appointment with one of our Vet Clinics.