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All About Cat Hairballs

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Methods for Hairballs

By Madeleine Burry. January 21, 2013 | See Comments

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All About Cat Hairballs

Anyone who has a cat at home has heard the hacking sound of a hairball being dislodged, but do they warrant our concern? Learn all about the causes and treatments for hairballs.

The sound of a cat coughing up a hairball can be revolting, and then of course, there is also the need to clean up the resulting mess. But are hairballs really a major health problem, or are they just normal a byproduct of a cat’s grooming?

Hairballs, which are known technically as trichobezoar, occur as a result of your cat’s inability to digest hair. Our cats spend a great deal of time grooming themselves, and some hair inevitably makes its way into their body during all the licking of fur. This hair needs to come back out of your pet’s body, and can do that either as part of feces, or by being regurgitated.

While it can be unappealing to watch and hear a hairball exit your cat, the alternative can be worse: hairballs that do not leave your cat’s body and block the stomach or intestines may need to be surgically removed.

Causes of Hairballs

Hairballs are caused by hair that is ingested, and does not leave the cat’s body in the form of feces. The hair lingers in the stomach and liver, and eventually makes its way back out through the cat’s mouth.

Symptoms of Cat Hairballs

The most common symptom is a telltale cylindrical hairball coughed up on your floor or furniture. Because of its shape, it can easily be mistaken for cat feces. You may also hear your cat making a retching noise as they regurgitate the hairball from their stomach. Some symptoms are more problematic, and include constipation, constant coughing, and lethargy.

Prevention and Treatment for Hairballs

There are several ways to prevent against hairballs, with the simplest and most effective method being to frequently groom your cat, and discourage them from excessive grooming themselves. Other tactics that can help are feeding your cat a special diet to prevent the formation of hairballs, and providing them with laxative-like remedies, which can help dispel the hairballs.

More on Cat Care

How to Wash a Cat
What to Do when Your Cat Doesn't Self Groom Enough
5 Common Cat Medications

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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