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18 Sep, 2021
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cat hairballs

Cat Hairballs! – H&S Pets Galore

Cat Hairballs: Everything You Need To Know!cat hairballs

Did you know that on average, a cat spends 4% of its life grooming? That’s right folks, your feline friends love to groom themselves, & this comes with ‘hairballs’. This brings us to our next question, what are cat hairballs? In the process of self-grooming, your cat may swallow some of its fur & together with the digestive juices this builds up to the formation of a hairball in your cat’s stomach. The good news is, no matter how distressing this might appear to you, cat hairballs are actually normal and most of the time harmless. It’s important to understand that hairballs are commoner in cats with longer coats such as Persians, Maine Coons, etc. as are they common with older cats who groom themselves a lot more compared to kittens and younger ones. Keep reading to learn more about cat hairballs!

Are Hairballs Normal?

Yes, for most cats this is normal because as mentioned they enjoy self-grooming. Hairballs are not a daily occurrence and should occur less than once a month. Remember, most of the hairs swallowed pass through the digestive tract and are eliminated in cat poop, hence a hairball is only formed when the dead hairs begin to pile up in the stomach. If cat hairballs are a frequent occurrence then we may have an issue as this could be due to an underlying problem in the digestive tract or could be due to over-grooming which could mean your cat is stressed. Either way, it’s important to get your cat checked by a vet.

Hairball Symptoms Normal Vs Abnormal:

Normal: Gagging, Retching, Vomiting- You may have noticed your cat gagging or retching as though he/she is trying to throw up. You may have even heard ‘cough-gag-retch’ which is a common sound made whilst your cat is trying to expel the hairball. It’s important to understand that eventually, your cat will expel the hairball from its mouth.

Abnormal- You need to be worried if the hairballs are causing any obstruction in the digestive tract, which could be life-threatening but you also need to be wary of some of the symptoms as they could mean a completely unrelated condition, for example, constant retching with the absence of a hairball with lethargy could imply your cat has asthma. Below are some of the symptoms, therefore, to look out for:

1. Prolonged Gagging, Retching, Vomiting
2. Loss Of/Reduced Appetite
3. Lethargy or Tiredness
4. Constipation or Diarrheoa
5. Excessive Grass Nibbling
6. Vomiting Hairball Constantly For More Than 48hrs or Every Few Weeks

What Can You Do?

Hairballs are inevitable and there’s not much you can do to completely prevent hairballs. During the ‘hairball expulsion’ event it’s important as a purrent that you stay calm, keep an eye and let your cat do its thing. If you have seen your cat pass the hairball without any struggle, you have no reason to get stressed. You should only worry if you notice any of the abnormal signs listed above, and in that case, you should take your cat to the vet who will thoroughly examine your cat to rule out other conditions and in case of a large hairball, may even order an x-ray to determine the position of the hairball if it is worrisome and may need surgical intervention.

Some of the things you can do to perhaps lessen the frequency of hairballs:

1. Regular Brushing/Combing- This will help remove the loose fur which could lead to a potential hairball formation.
2. Regular Trimming/Cutting Of Fur- Limiting the amount of hair your cat can swallow, tremendously reduces the formation of hairballs.
3. Nutrition- High fibre kibble can help stop hairballs from forming in the stomach, as well as help, keep your cat’s coat healthy and shiny, thus reducing shedding.
4. Try To Keep Your Cat Stress-Free- Stressing can be one of the causes your cat may tend to over-groom, keeping your cat in a stress-free environment can help reduce this behaviour.

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