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Everything You Should Know About Hairballs in Cats

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You’re playing with your cat when they suddenly spit up a slimy wad of fur. If you’re familiar with cat hairballs, it may not come as a surprise.

But if you aren’t, it may come off as being disgusting, especially if they do it on your favorite furniture or when you accidentally step on the hairballs.

While occasional hairballs are considered normal, frequent hairballs are of concern when it comes to your cat’s health.

Read on to understand more about cat hairballs, their prevention, and treatment how they can impact your cat’s health.

What Causes Cat Hairballs?

When cats groom themselves, they ingest some amount of hair in the process. Usually, this hair should pass through their gastrointestinal tract and be excreted.

However, when your cat ingests too much hair, it becomes hard for the hair to move through the digestive system, or something is causing the hair to be unable to pass.

Over time, the hair accumulates and gets trapped in the cat’s body, forming hairballs – a ball of wet hair. Eventually, your cat becomes overwhelmed and expels the hairball via vomiting.

Do All Cats Get Hairballs?

Yes, most if not all cats experience hairball episodes at some point during their lifetime. That said, medium to long hair cats are more likely to experience hairballs than their short-haired counterparts.

Are Hairballs Normal in Cats?

No cat hairballs aren’t normal. Occasional hairballs shouldn’t be a cause of concern, particularly in medium to long-haired cats or cats that like to groom their long-haired friends.

On the other hand, frequent hairballs are a red flag, and this warrants veterinary attention. They could signify other underlying problems that heighten the risk of developing hairballs.

  • Possible underlying causes of hairball issues in cats include:
  • Over-grooming
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Allergies
  • Skin parasites and diseases which may trigger excess grooming and over-ingestion of hair in cats.
  • Pain
  • Intestinal issues
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Food intolerances
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Inadequate hydration

Pro Tip: If you suspect or notice a hairball occurrence in your cat, capture the episode in video and share it with your vet. This can help your vet determine the issue and act accordingly.

Common Complications of Hairballs in Cats

If untreated, hairballs can lead to health problems like:

  • Intestinal blockage
  • Esophagus obstruction
  • Nasal difficulties such as running nose, coughing, sneezing, or infections

How Can You Prevent Cat Hairballs?

Try these solutions:

  • Brush your cat’s coat regularly
  • Limit excessive grooming by interrupting excessive grooming sessions with playtime or toys
  • Change your cat’s feeding habits — introduce hairball treats and diets

How Can You Treat the Best Cat Hairballs?

Typical hairball remedy food and supplements you can try are:

Mineral Oil-based laxatives that improve general digestion. These act as a lubricant, helping hairballs to pass more easily through your cat’s system.

Special formulated supplements and diets for cats who suffer from frequent hairballs. These include low residue or restricted antigen diets, diets rich in Increased fiber, etc.

Pro Tip: Consult your veterinarian when you opt for cat hairball supplements or foods. Your vet will help rule out any underlying issues and provide you with customized or extra ways to reduce your cat’s hairballs.

Although hairball food and dietary supplements help reduce cat hairballs, they only don’t treat the underlying causes of your cat’s hairballs but the symptoms.

Wrapping Up

There’s no cause for alarm if your cat has hairballs. You want to notify your vet of your cat’s hairballs, even if infrequent. Your vet will take steps to try to get ahead of the issue with prevention measures. They’ll also catch underlying illnesses early, if any, keeping your cat healthy and improving their quality of life.

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