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Everything You Need to Know About Hairballs

September 1, 2018

Do you own a cat? If so, you’ve probably dealt with a hairball or two in your time. It’s a part of life for most cats and their owners, but how familiar are you with hairballs? Speaking of which, did you know that It’s Hairball Awareness Day? In this article, your Roanoke, VA veterinarian tells you everything you need to know.

What Causes Hairballs?

When a cat grooms himself, tiny barbs lining the tongue pick up loose hair from the coat. This hair is swallowed and moves through the digestive tract, and most of it eventually gets expelled naturally in your cat’s fecal matter. Some swallowed hair, however, remains in your cat’s gut and clumps together. Eventually, this retained hair is regurgitated in the form of a hairball.

A cat coughing up a hairball will probably gag and retch for a few moments before producing the actual hairball. The hairball will probably be accompanied by some stomach fluid, and it’s worth noting that the hairball itself isn’t likely to be round in shape—since it’s passed through your cat’s windpipe, the hairball will be more tubular than round.

Do Hairballs Cause Harm to My Cat?

No, the occasional hairball doesn’t cause your cat harm. It’s a natural part of life! However, there are some things to watch out for when it comes to hairballs.

If your cat is gagging and retching without actually producing a hairball, the hairball—or some other foreign object—may be blocking their esophagus. You should rush your cat to the emergency room right away. A cat whose hairball production has increased dramatically should be examined by a veterinarian, as various medical issues could be to blame. In such cases, veterinary diagnostics may be necessary to determine the underlying cause. Also, it’s important to know that vomiting is not the same as coughing up a hairball. If your cat is vomiting frequently, make an appointment right away!

Can I Help Make Hairballs Occur Less Often?

Feeding your cat a high-quality, well-balanced, and nutritional diet is one of the best ways to keep the coat healthy and moisturized, leading to less shedding and therefore less swallowed hair. Brushing your cat on a regular basis is another good idea—this traps much of your cat’s loose fur in the brush itself, meaning that less gets swallowed to create a hairball in the first place.

Does your cat need a veterinary examination? Want to know more about your cat’s behavior or healthcare needs? Call your Roanoke, VA vet clinic to make an appointment.

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