What You Should Know About Hairballs

Hairballs may be unpleasant for both you and your cat, but they are also a common part of a healthy grooming process.

Still, as a responsible cat-parent, it’s really important to know what causes a trichobezoar (or a hairball or furball as they’re more commonly known), as well as how to deal with them. After all, a large clump of hair in your cat’s intestinal tract can actually pose a serious health threat.

So without further ado, here’s the complete guide to hairballs in cats, from symptoms to remedies:

Causes of hairballs in cats: Grooming

You have probably seen kitty grooming herself from time to time, licking down her fur with her tongue. This is primarily done to clean their coat and get rid of anything that doesn’t belong there. Although, it’s also how cats get rid of excess or dead hair.

During this process, some loose hairs end up inside your cat’s stomach or small intestine. And while the majority of these hairs pass through their gastrointestinal tract and come out in their feces without a problem, the hairs that don’t pass through end up forming a hairball.

Cats actually have small hook-type formations on their tongue, which makes the hair easier to ingest. This is also what gives hairballs their often elongated shape, rather than being round or ball-shaped as many people believe.

The amount of hair your cat has, and how often they groom themselves will affect how often they cough up or produce hairballs.

Seasonal changes

Cats can also suffer from hairballs because of seasonal changes. In warmer weather, cats will tend to lose some of their fur. As that hair falls off or comes off during grooming, it is possible that it will end up in the cat’s mouth and eventually in their digestive system, causing more hairballs than normal.

The good news is hairballs can be treated, whatever the cause. No one likes to hear their pet baby hack and cough in misery, so taking action may be the only solution. Here’s how you’ll know if catto is experiencing hairballs…

Hairball symptoms

How do you know if your cat is experiencing hairballs? After all, you may not always see your cat during the act of hacking one up. Instead, you’ll have to watch out for the signs and the symptoms, and the most common ones include:

  1. Coughing

This is a normal symptom, and it is just your cat’s way of getting their hairball to come up.

2. Hacking

Repeated partial coughs create a hacking sound that may seem unsettling, but is also normal behavior for cats that are trying to bring up a hairball. For most pet parents, this is the most visible sign, as hacking can be heard from far away.

3. Retching

Your cat will also likely make retching sounds, which can also be unsettling. Eventually, the hairball should come up. This is dry vomit essentially, so it sounds awful and does not produce a pool of liquid. It can make it seem like a serious health problem, even though it isn’t.

4. Continuous hacking or coughing

If your cat is coughing, hacking or retching continuously and there is no sign of a hairball coming up, then it is time to consult your veterinarian. This could indicate a larger problem that you may not be aware of, and the difficulty your cat is having needs to be addressed to minimize the risk of long-term damage.

5. Fatigue

If your cat is always tired and also shows some of the symptoms above, they may be using up too much time and energy trying to get the hairballs to come up. This could also be a sign of a medical problem that needs to be dealt with, so it makes sense to consult your vet.

6. Diarrhea

Since hairballs are part of the digestive process for cats, when things go wrong with the hairball process, cats can suffer a variety of digestive issues. Diarrhea could occur because of this issue, so watch for that as a possible sign that your cat is having hairball troubles.

It’s important to bear in mind that digestive issues could also indicate a parasite that your cat is dealing with. So don’t immediately assume it is hairball trouble. Diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation are all indicators of digestive issues, and there could be many reasons for these kinds of symptoms.

If you don’t see signs of a hairball or any of the common symptoms of hairballs (coughing, hacking retching), then don’t just assume that hairballs are the cause of your cat’s digestive issues.

Remedies for hairballs

Hairballs are natural for most cats, so you usually don’t have to do anything about them. However, if your cat is experiencing persistent hairballs and is going through a tough ordeal getting the hairballs to come up, you will need to step in and do something about it.

Here are some hairball remedies to make your four-legged friend feel better:

1. Change your cat’s diet

One thing you can do help your cat with digestive issues of any kind is to feed it better food. Part of its digestive problems may stem from a poor diet. If you are not sure what to feed your cat or what constitutes a healthy cat diet, then be sure to read up on expert advice about this topic, because there is far more to it than we can cover in this article.

2. Use a laxative

Another way to treat a cat’s digestive problems is to use a laxative, and you’ll find that many hairball products, such as the Lavaca Hairball Remedy. It works as a digestive aid that enable your cat to get rid of the hairball or other obstructions when they defecate.

3. Use hairball formula food

There are some snacks that you can give your cat that are specially formulated to treat hairball issues. The popular cat food brand Whiskas makes a cat treat that your cat will love and that will also help work with the digestive problems created by hairballs.

4. Groom your cat

It’s possible that your cat is just grooming itself too much for whatever reason. Depression, anxiety, health problems and more all contribute to excessive grooming, so you can take over that job for your cat and groom him/her yourself.

This means that your cat won’t be ingesting nearly as much hair and experiencing nearly as many hairballs. The extra work required of you can definitely be worth it just to have a cat that doesn’t feel miserable all the time.

5. Stop your cat over-grooming

There is also an action you can take to keep your cat from over-grooming. This typically involves giving your cat something else to do, such as a new toy to play with. If you see your cat grooming themselves and you want them to stop, try to distract them, and get them interested in doing something else. This can take a lot of work at first, but once you have your cat trained, you won’t have to be directly involved anymore.

Remember to make a careful assessment before trying any remedy…

These are simply the most effective remedies in most cases, and there are others that you may discover or that your veterinarian may recommend. Your cat’s case needs to be examined individually. Look at your cat’s symptoms and make a careful assessment before trying any remedy.
Ultimately, hairballs will usually run their course and not cause your cat any serious problems, but you should know that there are ways to make things easier for your kitty cat.

Should you worry?

Hairballs are normal for cats, and there is usually nothing to worry about. If you see your cat coughing up the occasional hairball, it is no big deal, but it’s the persistent hairball issues you need to watch for. You can also watch for the symptoms we listed above. Those that fall under the category of digestive problems should be addressed immediately, rather than ignored in the hope they’ll go away.

So in summary, if you notice that your cat is having trouble with hairballs or that they are exhibiting any signs of constant hairball issues, it’s time to consult your veterinarian. It is always best to talk to the vet before you try to diagnose the issue yourself. It may cost more to do things this way, but it is worth it if you are going to protect the health of your cat.

About the Author
Emma is a popular pet-blogger and a pet-parent to two four-legged friends. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of pet-health, pet behavior, and pet training.


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