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Everything You Need to Know About Hairballs

October 15, 2019

Do you own a cat? You’ve probably witnessed your feline friend cough up a hairball at least once or twice in your time together. It’s one of our cats’ least agreeable habits—how much do you really know about Fluffy’s hairballs? Learn more here from a New Orleans, LA vet.

Why Do Hairballs Form?

When a cat grooms herself, tiny barbs lining the tongue pick up a lot of loose fur from her coat. She swallows that hair, and most of it moves through the digestive system naturally and gets expelled in the feces eventually. Some hair, though, stays in the gut and clumps together in the form of a hairball, which is then regurgitated.

Hairballs are typically tube-shaped, not round, since they’ve passed through your cat’s narrow esophagus. A cat will usually retch for a moment or two before actually producing the hairball, and it will likely be accompanied by a little stomach fluid.

Do Hairballs Hurt My Cat?

Not in the least. The occasional hairball is a normal part of life for your pet, unpleasant as it may seem. It doesn’t cause your cat harm whatsoever.

Is your cat coughing up hairballs frequently? She might be swallowing more hair than usual, which could be thanks to an increase in shedding caused by parasitic infestation, skin infection, or other problems. Schedule an appointment at the vet’s office to have your cat examined. Also, if your cat is retching and gagging but not producing anything, rush them to the closest emergency room—your pet might be choking on the hairball itself, or on a foreign object.

Can I Help My Cat Experience Fewer Hairballs?

Yes, there are a few simple steps you can take to help your cat cough up fewer hairballs. It starts with your cat’s diet—when Fluffy receives the right nutrition through her kibble, the skin and hair follicles stay healthy. That means a well-moisturized coat and less shedding, resulting in less swallowed hair. The second thing you can do is brush your cat regularly. You’ll wind up trapping a lot of loose fur in the brush itself, meaning that your cat swallows less and therefore produces fewer hairballs.

Do you have questions about your cat’s grooming needs? Want a recommendation on a great feline diet or a particular brush type? Call your New Orleans, LA vet clinic today to set up an appointment for your pet.