Hairballs are common for cats. They are formed from undigested cat hair in your cat’s stomach. While hairballs are typically harmless, they can be hazardous to your kitty’s health by causing an intestinal blockage. Fortunately, you can reduce or even prevent hairballs from developing.
How Do Hairballs Form?
Your cat has tiny, hook-like structures on his tongue. When he grooms himself, these hook-like structures help remove loose and dead fur from his body. Your kitty inevitably swallows some of his fur while he’s grooming himself.
Most of your kitty’s fur is able to travel through his digestive system with no problem. However, when fur stays in the stomach, it forms a hairball. Your kitty is usually able to vomit the hairball up in order to get rid of it.
Hairballs are typically cylindrical or tubular in shape rather than round because they pass through your cat’s narrow esophagus on their way up. You may even mistake a hairball for feces, but if you examine it closely, the hairball will usually be the color of your cat’s fur.
Cats with long hair, such as Ragdolls, Persians, and Maine Coons, are more prone to developing hairballs than short-haired cats. Cats who compulsively groom themselves or who shed a lot are also more prone to hairballs.
When Should You be Concerned?
Most of the time, cats vomit hairballs with no problem. However, if you notice that your cat is lethargic, refuses to eat for more than one day, or has numerous episodes of unproductive retching, you need to take her to the veterinarian right away. A hairball may be causing a potentially life-threatening intestinal blockage.
How Do You Minimize or Prevent Hairballs?
There are things you can do to minimize and possibly prevent the formation of hairballs in your cat.
Groom: Brushing or combing your kitty everyday will reduce the amount of hair he swallows when he grooms himself. If your kitty won’t tolerate being brushed or combed, you can take him to a reputable groomer or your veterinarian once or twice a year for a haircut. This may be especially helpful for long-haired cats, such as Ragdolls, Maine Coons, and Persians.
Feed a Hairball Diet: Many cat food companies make food to help prevent hairballs. Hairball-reduction cat food is designed to help your kitty’s fur pass through his digestive system, improve the health of your kitty’s coat, and minimize shedding.
Hairball Remedy Products: You can also try giving your cat a hairball remedy product once or twice each week. Many hairball remedy products are petroleum-based laxatives. Hairball remedy products are available in treats and gels.
While hairballs are usually harmless, they can cause life-threatening intestinal blockages. To help minimize or prevent hairballs and their complications, groom your cat, feed a hairball diet, or use a hairball remedy product on your cat. With fewer hairballs, you and your cat will be happier.
For more info, visit pets.webmd.com.