Dealing With Cat Hairballs

Cat hairballs are also known as fur-balls and may be called trichobezoars by your veterinarian.

Cats, by their nature, are clean animals. They spend a lot of time grooming their coats to ensure that they are well kept.

They do this by licking their fur with a tongue that is covered by tiny barbs and in doing so they dislodge any loose hairs.

Because of those barbs on that rough tongue, that are so good at removing dead hair, cats find it impossible to spit the hair out.

So the only thing they can do is swallow it.

The swallowed hair in most cases, does not cause the cat any problem. It passes through the cat's digestive tract and is excreted in the normal way.

However, too much swallowed hair can cause a problem.

It gathers into a tangled mass and is unable to pass on through the cat's digestive system. If the wad of fur (hairball) cannot come out one way, it has to come out the other.

Hairballs are not easy for the feline to expel. Often an amount of heaving and retching is required before the offending clump is brought up.

So What Do Cat Hairballs Look Like?

Not a pretty sight. Don't expect a hairball to be round like a ball, they rarely are.

cat grooming itself

Cat hairballs are usually somewhat elongated like a sausage, or cigar.

They vary in size from fairly small, about two inches long and not much thicker than a pencil, to lumps so large that you would not believe your cat would be able to fetch them up.

Hairballs are often soggy, slimy and can be mistaken for poop.

Sometimes they contain partly digested, or even completely undigested food.

Do All Cats Get Hairball Problems?

No not all cats have problems with hairballs. Some cats only get them infrequently and are able to bring them up fairly easily, no problem.

Do all cats get hairballs is a different question.

Some cat carers will say that they have never known their pets to fetch up hairballs, and it is possible that they don't.

On the other hand, if these cats are allowed outside then it is also possible that they have never brought one up in front of their human.

Outdoor cats often eat grass to deliberately make themselves vomit up any wads of hair.

Cats kept indoors have no option but to bring up hairballs in the home, often in the most unfortunate places.

Longhair Cats and Hairballs

Do longhair breeds tend to experience more fur balls than short haired breeds?

Cat licking itself.There will always be the possibility of your cat getting hairballs as long as she grooms herself.

The longer the hair the more hair the cat is likely to ingest, but some folks that share their life with a long haired cat are adamant that their feline friends do not produce many fur balls.

Could this be because these cat carers are more aware of the need to regularly groom their pets?

Long or short haired coats, cats that are regularly groomed will have less loose hairs, so less hairs get swallowed, less chance of hairballs.

Can Cat Hairballs Be Dangerous?

Normally fur balls are not serious.

Some cats may get temporary exhausted by the effort of retching them up and humans are repelled by the things - but generally a cat fetching up a wad of hair is not dangerous.

What can be dangerous is when a cat is unable to bring up a trichobezoar.

Sometimes the mass of hair will not go either way out, and the cat has a hairball blockage.

Indications of a blockage could be your cat continually retching but not being able to expel anything, eating and vomiting the food back up, not eating or being disinterested in food, a swollen stomach, your cat is lethargic.

If you suspect that your cat has a hairball blockage then consult your veterinarian right away. There is a lot veterinarians can do to clear trichobezoars, surgery would be a last resort.

Can Cat Hairballs Be Prevented?

There will always be the possibility of your cat getting a hairball as long as she grooms herself. But there are things that you can do to reduce the frequency.

  • As mentioned above, if you regularly Groom your Cat the grooming brush will remove many of those loose hairs so when your cat cleans her coat she will not swallow so many.
  • There are cat foods available that are specially formulated to help prevent hairballs. They mostly have a higher fiber content which could assist the hair through your cat's body. Cat grass will also provide your cat with extra fiber and possibly cause your cat to vomit up swallowed hair.
  • There are also flavored petroleum, or mineral oil, based commercial products that can either be fed directly to your cat, or added to your cat's food. Always follow the manufactures directions, too much petroleum jelly could possibly cause a vitamin deficiency. Many other kinds of hairball remedies are available, some may work for your cat, some may not.
  • Make sure that your cat is not bored. Boredom is one of the reasons cats over-groom and so swallow more hair. Playing with your cat each day will help to ensure that she does not get bored, a selection of  Cat Toys that are Interactive will help.

Feline Furball Plus is a cat treat that does not contain mineral oil - a healthier way to control hair balls.

Vetri-Science Laboratories Feline Furball Plus Hairball Remedy Chew for Cats, 60 Chews

It can be worrying watching your cat bring up a hairball, but remember that the odd occurrence is all part of sharing your life with a cat. If it is frequently happening you may want to try some of the above remedies, or seek the advice of your veterinarian.

It cannot be overstated that a regular grooming session reduces the chances of cat hairballs.

Any suspicion of a blockage then your veterinarian should be consulted immediately.

The Health Of Your Cat's Eyes.
A cat eye health care plan includes being aware of problems that can affect your cat's eyes. Eyesight is very important to the well-being of cats.

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