Nobody likes cleaning up hairballs. But are they more than just a nuisance? Find out what you need to know about cat hairballs.
Dealing with cat hairballs is one of the less glamourous aspects of kitty care. But if you own a feline, you will probably have to deal with this at some point.
What causes hairballs anyway? And should you be concerned about them? Keep reading to find out.
Why Does My Cat Have Hairballs?
Hairballs, also known as trichobezoar, are long clusters of hair that cats cough up. That hair gets ingested when cats groom themselves.
As they lick their coats, their tongues pick up loose hair. Those hairs get swallowed and enter the digestive system.
Most of the ingested fur will travel the entire digestive tract and end up in the litter box. But a portion of that hair will stop in the stomach.
While in the stomach, the hair comes together to form a hairball. The hairball makes its way back up the esophagus and gets thrown up.
Should You Be Concerned About Cat Hairballs?
Usually, hairballs are not a cause for concern. As long as your kitty doesn’t display any worrisome symptoms and only coughs up an occasional hairball, there’s no need to worry.
However, cat hairballs can become problematic if they travel into the intestine. This could cause a life-threatening blockage, requiring immediate veterinary care.
What are the symptoms of a blockage?
One sign is an inability to throw up, despite continual retching. Another is a loss of appetite for more than 24 hours. If your cat exhibits these symptoms, call your veterinarian right away.
Your veterinarian will examine your cat. If a blockage is found, surgery might be necessary. But according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, other treatment methods are more likely to be used.
This includes, “protecting the intestine through several days of clinical care that includes intravenous rehydration and the use of a laxative to move the hairball through the digestive tract.”
What About Chronic Hairballs with No Other Symptoms?
You might want to pay more attention to your cat’s hairballs if they occur on a regular basis. Before calling your veterinarian, try a few remedies on your own. We have listed some below.
If these remedies don’t work, consider making an appointment with your vet.
Groom Your Cat More Often
If your cat tends to obsess about grooming, give your kitty something else to do. Get new toys or set up a cat tree. You could even train your cat to walk on a leash in your backyard.
Change Your Cat’s Diet
Food allergies can cause chronic hairballs. If you suspect that your cat’s diet is causing the problem, switch over to hypoallergenic pet food.
You might need some help when choosing the right food. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
Sure, cat hairballs are gross. But in most cases, there’s no need to be concerned about them. Cleaning up hairballs is just part of living with a feline.
But if your cat starts to cough them up too frequently, or they are accompanied by other symptoms, you should get help from your veterinarian.