A sound that all cat owners recognize – and simultaneously fear – is the gut-wrenching hack of their pet trying to cough up a hairball. Few topics inspire such unease and revulsion, but knowing how to handle cat hairballs (and what causes them) is important. That’s where your friends at West Park Animal Hospital come in!
The Technical Stuff
Slender and slightly cylindrical in shape, cat hairballs consist of – spoiler alert – your cat’s fur. While they certainly make you wince, hairballs are actually a result of your feline’s good grooming habits.
When your cat cleans him or herself, loose hairs get stuck to the small barbs on the tongue. Eventually, these hairs slide down the throat and enter the stomach. A good amount of fur gets digested and eliminated, but the remains accumulate in the stomach until they find their way out through your cat’s mouth.
Some breeds, such as Persians or Maine Coons, are more likely to experience hairballs for obvious (or hairy) reasons. Other cats are more likely to have hairballs in the spring, when they begin to shed their winter coats.
If you’re wondering whether your kitten or senior cat is responsible for a little present on the floor, it’s likely your older, more experienced cat. Kittens and younger felines don’t typically have as much fur.
Confusing Cat Hairballs
Unless your cat is regurgitating hairballs all the time, there’s no cause for immediate worry. However, if you notice your cat is trying to get something up and can’t, please contact us. Sometimes, a blockage in the digestive tract can cause similar symptoms and should be addressed immediately. Likewise, respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies can also be confused for hairballs.
What You Can Do
To help prevent and reduce the number of cat hairballs in your life, try some of these tips:
- Brush your cat once a day.
- If your cat has a thicker coat, opt to have him or her professionally groomed a couple times throughout the year.
- Ask us about adjustments to your cat’s diet that may yield great results.
What a Relief!
Of the many unique behaviors that we love about cats, their tendency to create hairballs is probably not one of them. However, it’s important to note that hairballs are typically not a source of pain for your beloved feline. In fact, hacking one up every now and then may actually offer some relief, making him or her a much happier cat. Sure, you have some extra cleaning up to do, but if you ask us, it’s worth it!