Hairballs in Cats

Cats are a relatively easy pet to take care of. Cats tend to take care of most of their duties themselves. Just feed them when they ask, and they will not ask for much else from you. But, there are some times when your cat may need your help. If you notice hairballs in cats, you may need to take action.

The proper term for the hairball is “trichobezoar.” Tricho meaning hair, and bezoar is the accumulation of indigestible items formed in the cat’s throat. How exactly do hairballs in cats form? The cat has a digestive system naturally made for digesting fur. Grooming is very important to felines and they groom themselves often. While grooming themselves, cats lick dirt, old hair, and other foreign objects. Cats swallow most of these objects from grooming. Digesting hair is a normal part of the digestive system for cats. Most of the fur swallowed by them will end up in the feces of the cat.

However, if your cat is shedding or grooming often, too much fur may build up. If this happens, the fur will not reach the small intestine. If this is to happen, the hairball may come back up through the esophagus. The shape may not resemble a ball after travelling through the shape of the esophagus, though. There are times when instead, food cannot pass the accumulated hair in the stomach. In this case, the cat will cough up the food instead.

Should I Worry about Hairballs in Cats?

If you notice hairballs in cats, you do not need to immediately worry. It can be common among long haired cats, or cats that groom other cats. The occasional hairball is nothing to worry about. Most veterinarians agree that vomiting over twice a month as a result of hairballs is a problem though. They may be caused by another problem altogether.

Your cats may be over-grooming itself. Naturally, one of the first reasons for hairballs in cats is over-grooming. Cleaning itself is a normal part of your cat’s daily routine, but excess cleaning can be a problem. One cause of over-grooming could be stress. If there have been any major changes in your household, your cat could be suffering from stress or anxiety. Schedule changes, new additions to the household, or even new pets could be the cause of your cat’s anxiety.

Your cat may also be suffering from allergies.  Check your cat’s diet for any recent changes in their eating habits that may cause allergic reactions. Any skin parasites can be a cause of over-grooming as well. Be sure your cat does not have fleas or scabies. Cats will try to groom themselves more than usual to remove foreign bodies from their fur. If fleas are present in their fur, they will most likely be grooming more than normal.

Some Serious Causes of Hairballs in Cats

There are times when the root cause of hairballs in cats is a more serious issue. If hairballs are occurring frequently, check your cat for intestinal problems. Your cat could have inflammatory bowel disease, which causes the bowels to not perform their functions properly. If you notice diarrhea, weight loss, and your cat is vomiting, the hairballs might be an early warning to bowel problems.

Your cat may also have gastrointestinal cancer. This causes the digestive system to not function as intended. You should also check your cat’s diet. Some cats may have sensitive stomachs and this can cause problems for the cat’s health. Make sure you are choosing the right foods for your cat.

It is not common, but there is a chance that hairballs can cause blockage in your cat’s intestines. If this is happening, your cat will be vomiting, retching often without vomiting, or refusing food. This is usually not a problem for most cats. But, if you believe your cat is suffering from any of these conditions because the hairballs, get your cat checked as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can detect the cause of the problem with better certainty and you can get started on fixing the cause. Your cat will be thankful and back to its normal self soon.

How to Treat Hairballs in Cats

After you have gotten professional advice, your vet should offer some suggestions for treating. Or, if you do not believe it to be serious, there are options for you to treat it before it is serious. The first and most obvious solution is to assist your cat in its grooming habits. Buy a special brush for your cat and brush to remove most excess hair before they have a chance to ingest it. Cats with short hair are still susceptible, but long haired cats need this more. Your cat will also leave less fur around the house if you remove it yourself, so you can both benefit from this method.

Another solution is to give your cat a diet rich in fiber. There are plenty of cat food options designed for this purpose. A high fiber diet will assist in your cat’s digestive system. Your cat will digest excess fur more easily. You will not find any more hairballs with a proper diet for your cat’s needs.  There are plenty of options for you to choose from. Find the best choice for you cat.

While hairballs are common, there are times when they are not. The occasional hairball is nothing to be alarmed about. If you notice it is a common occurrence, or if your cat seems to be in pain, you should check. Frequent vomiting and hairballs is never normal. A change in diet or a change in your cat’s grooming habits may be necessary.  Take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible in this instance. You and your vet can determine the best course of action together during your visit. While hairballs in cats are not uncommon, sometimes it is best not to dismiss them. Take care of your cat and keep them as healthy as possible.


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