The ABCs of Your Cat’s Hairballs

If you own a cat, you’ve probably seen a few hairballs in your time together. The question is, why do hairballs happen, and do they represent a problem for your cat? Below, your London, ON veterinarian goes over the basics of your feline friend’s hairballs.

What Causes Hairballs?

Tiny barbs lining your cat’s tongue cause Fluffy to pick up a lot of loose hair while grooming herself. This hair is swallowed, and most of it moves through the digestive system and gets expelled naturally in the feces. Some of that hair remains in the gut, though, and clumps together over time to form a hairball. Eventually, that hairball is expelled.

You’ll probably see your cat gag and retch for a few seconds before the actual hairball appears, and it will be accompanied by stomach fluid. It’s also worth noting that your cat’s hairball probably won’t be round—most hairballs are more tube-shaped because they’ve just passed through a cat’s esophageal tube.

Do Hairballs Hurt My Cat in Any Way?

No, the occasional hairball doesn’t hurt your cat. It’s a natural part of life that comes with the territory! If your cat is like most and produces a hairball every now and then, there’s nothing to worry about.
If your cat’s hairball production has increased suddenly or drastically, it’s time to pay a visit to the vet’s office. Medical issues could be to blame. If your cat is gagging and retching but not producing a hairball, it may be blocking the windpipe—rush your cat to the emergency room. Finally, take note that vomiting is not the same as coughing up a hairball. A cat who is consistently vomiting should receive prompt veterinary attention!

Can I Help My Cat Cough Up Fewer Hairballs?

Yes, there are a few things you can do to help minimize your cat’s hairball production. First, feed them a high-quality diet. Your cat’s skin and hair stays healthy—and they shed far less—when they receive the proper nutrients! Secondly, brush your cat yourself on a regular basis to trap loose and dead fur in the brush itself. This prevents Fluffy from swallowing the hair, ultimately cutting down on hairballs.

Would you like to know more about your cat’s grooming or dietary needs? Does your feline friend need an examination? Schedule your cat’s next appointment at your London, ON veterinary clinic. We can’t wait to see you!

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