All About Hairballs

If you own a cat, you know that your feline friend is an excellent self-groomer. That talent comes with a caveat: hairballs! It’s a part of life for just about every cat owner—the question is, do hairballs harm your cat, and can you do anything to minimize this unsightly occurrence? Read on to find out more about hairballs.

What Causes Hairballs?

When a cat grooms herself, tiny barbs on the tongue pick up hair from the coat, which your pet swallows. Most of that ingested hair moves through the digestive tract and is subsequently expelled in your cat’s feces. Some of it, however, remains in the stomach, forming a hairball.

Eventually, your cat will vomit up this hairball. (Usually, hairballs are tube-shaped rather than round, since they’ve passed through the narrow esophageal tube.) Retching and gagging may occur for a few moments before the actual hairball is expelled.

Are Hairballs Safe?

It certainly doesn’t look pleasant for your cat when she’s retching up a hairball, and it’s most definitely not pleasant for you when you have to clean it up. The question is, does expelling a hairball harm your cat in any way?

The occasional hairball shouldn’t cause your cat any problems—it’s a normal part of life for almost any cat who grooms themselves on a regular basis. So, if your cat simply coughs up a hairball every now and again, there’s nothing to worry about.

However, if your cat’s hairball production is frequent, or if your feline friend has suddenly started expelling hairballs in quick succession, it’s time to see the vet. Also, seek help if your cat is gagging and retching, but not actually producing a hairball—this could mean that the hairball is causing a blockage, which you’ll want to have dealt with immediately.

Can I Help to Minimize Hairballs?

There are a few things you can do to help minimize hairball production in your cat. First, brush her regularly—when you remove loose and dead hair from the coat by trapping it in the brush, you’re lessening the amount Fluffy swallows! You can also consider feeding your cat a specialized food, made to help reduce the amount that your cat sheds and help ingested hair flow through the digestive tract smoothly. Ask your vet if this might be a good choice for your pet.

Does your cat need veterinary attention? Contact the office today!

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