Hairballs in Cats

What Are Hairballs?
Just about every cat owner has occasionally experienced one unpleasant side effect of cat
ownership, hairballs. Hairballs are a result of a combination of Mother Nature design for cats to
be very clean and their tongues having little barbs that act like hooks. When your cat grooms
herself, these hooks are very efficient at picking up and removing dirt, plus loose or dead hair
from the fur, which she then swallows. Most of the time, this hair passes uneventfully through
the intestines. Sometimes, the fur collects in the stomach and forms a hairball. When the hairball tries to pass unsuccessfully out of the stomach
into the small intestine, it stimulates the vomiting reflex and the tubular shaped hairball is vomited up. Usually this is preceded by a
characteristic gagging or hacking-like sound plus retching with obvious abdominal contractions.

Why Do Some Cats Seem to Get More Hairballs?

While Mother Nature designed cats to clean themselves, she didn’t design them to have long
hair. Since longhair cats swallow much more hair they are more susceptible to developing hairballs.
Cats that groom themselves excessively are also more susceptible.

When Are Hairballs or Hairball-like Symptoms a Problem?

After vomiting a hairball, your cat should return to normal activity. She should eat, groom,
and act normal. If you notice your cat persistently vomiting or attempting to vomit, not
eating, hiding, having diarrhea or constipation, or acting abnormal, you should see your veterinarian.

What Can You Do to Prevent Hairballs?

1)  Brush your cat. Regular brushing removes hair and is the best prevention.

2) Use a hairball cat food. These are high fiber foods that help move the hair through the intestines.

3) Use a hairball remedy. Flavored petroleum based products that are mild laxatives
that keep the hair moving through the intestines.

4) Keep your cat entertained with enrichment activities so she is active and spending
less time grooming. For great ideas, see our blog “Indoor Enrichment- Cat’s Just Wanna
Have Fun”.