5 Things to Know About Hairballs The Top Facts About Hairballs in Cats

BY | January 21 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
5 Things to Know About Hairballs
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Since hairballs are an unavoidable condition of being a cat parent, read on for a few quick facts about preventing and treating them.

Grossed out by hairballs? Thatโ€™s entirely understandable, since they are rather unpleasant. The sound of your cat hacking one up is fairly repulsive, and itโ€™s also not very enjoyable to have to clean up a hairball. However, itโ€™s an unavoidable condition of being a cat parent, since even the healthiest cats will occasionally have a hairball.

Read on for a few quick facts to add to your knowledge of hairballs.

1. Their Name Is Misleading

Donโ€™t be tricked by the name โ€œhairballโ€ into thinking that your cat will be emitting round balls of obvious hair onto the floor. In fact, hairballs are cylindrically shaped and may first look quite similar to cat feces. While itโ€™s gross, and you may want to avoid getting too close, one way to distinguish between hairballs and feces is to smell them.

2. Hairballs Are Not Coughed Up

It can look and sound a bit like your cat is coughing while they expel a hairball. In fact, hairballs are formed as a result of hair that is ingested -- so the hairballs are actually coming from the stomach and are being vomited out through the esophagus, and not transmitted through the catโ€™s lungs. Coughing without a hairball emerging can be a sign of asmtha.

3. Usually a Minor Problem, But Can Lead to Surgery

In general, hairballs are not a major problem. They are just one of the less than lovely aspects of being a pet parent. In some cases however, if the hairball does not exit through the catโ€™s body either by being vomited or as feces, surgery will be necessary to remove the blockage that the hairballs can form within a catโ€™s organs.

4. Most Common in Long Haired Breeds

In long haired cats, such as Persians, Siamese, and Maine Coons, the formation of the hairballs can be more frequent as the result of the abundant and fluffy hair.

5. Help a Groomer Out

You can help prevent against your cat getting hairballs in several different ways. One major way is to brush and comb your cat so that there are less loose hairs around for your cat to swallow. Another option is to provide your cat with a fiber-rich diet, which helps promote healthy, shiny fur. You can also provide your cat with supplements that act as laxatives to help remove the hairball from within your catโ€™s body easily.

3 Tricks for Getting Rid of Hairballs

3 Vet-Recommended Tricks to Get Rid of Cat Hairballs

The terms cats and hairballs almost go hand in hand. Common as they are, hairballs arenโ€™t just unpleasant surprises that you can shrug off as a minor nuisance as they can compromise your catโ€™s health.

Cat Hairballs Can Be Potentially Be Fatal

Hairballs are the byproducts of a catโ€™s natural grooming process. As a cat licks itself clean, it inadvertently swallows loose hair. While most of these hair strands are passed out of the system some remain in the stomach and can cause immense discomfort. In extreme cases, hairballs can cause severe intestinal blockage, which can be potentially life-threatening.

Long haired breeds and heavy shedders are most susceptible to troublesome hairballs. If you are looking for hairball treatments and remedies, then take a look at these tips on how to get rid of hairballs, reduce their frequency, and treat symptoms like retching.

Trick #1: Brush!

Brushing you cat daily will not only provide great bonding time, but it will also reduce the amount of fur your cat swallows during self-grooming. There are many brush and comb styles to choose from, and you may also find that your cat enjoys soft plastic brushes more than metal prongs or that one works more efficiently on your catโ€™s fur texture. If your cat is a heavy shedder or prone to hairballs, consider using a deshedder tool, which can reduce shedding up to 90% by thinning the undercoat.

Extra Tip:

After a brushing session, particularly a static-filled one, run a slightly damp paper towel or cloth over your catโ€™s fur to pick up any remaining loose hair.

Trick #2: Tabs, Treats, and Pastes

Many products that are marketed as hairball alleviators are mild laxatives that help your cat pass the hair through his or her system. These can be kept in your pet medicine chest as multi-purpose, for treating both hairballs and mild constipation. Laxatives are usually best employed to help clear up an existing hairball problem and not as a long term solution. 

Fortunately, there are many everyday ways you can give your cat the minerals, vitamins, and oils that can prevent hairballs by encouraging coat health. Flavored gels that you apply to your catโ€™s pawโ€”he or she will be immediately compelled to lick it offโ€”are one option. You can also buy flavored treats that contain fiber and mineral oil for hairball prevention. Even chewable tablets are available in enticing meat flavors and can be found in all-natural, petroleum free formulas.

Extra Tip:

The old household remedy of using Vaseline on a paw to prevent hairballs from coming up does work. However, long-term usage of this remedy can result in vitamin deficiencies. You also donโ€™t want to give your cat plain mineral oil, even though it is a common ingredient in other hairball remedies. The unscented oil can easily be accidentally inhaled, which can cause very serious health problems.

Trick #3: Change Cat Food

Many pet food brands have lines specifically designed to help prevent hairball formation. Switching to a hairball-reducing food is one of the lowest maintenance ways to prevent them, but some cats may also need occasional pastes or laxatives. Hairball reducing food formulas employ a two-pronged approach: fiber for digestion and supplements for coat health. The fiber from things like brown rice or beet root will help keep your catโ€™s digestion active to pass the fur he or she swallows through the system. And the vitamins and oils will help keep your catโ€™s skin and coat healthy, reducing both shedding and grooming.

Extra Tip:

Try growing indoor pet grass for an all-natural way to encourage your cat to eat more fiber.

More on Cat Health

When to Take a Cat to the Vet
How to Wash a Cat
Why Cats Eat Grass and Other Self-Medicating Habits

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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