Things All Cat Owners Should Be Aware of About Hairballs

A couple of fun holidays and awareness-raising activities fall in April. Among other days, we have Little Pampered Dog Day, Cat Lady Day, and National Hug Your Dog Day. A few of the events on the calendar aren’t quite that cute, though. For instance, we have Heartworm Awareness Month. Then there’s Hairball Awareness Day. Although hairballs may not be the most amusing subject matter, they are fairly routine for our feline companions. However, it’s important for people owned by kitties to understand how they form, how to reduce or prevent them, and how to tell if something more is going on. A Bel Air, MD veterinarian offers some insight on this below.

Why Cats Get Hairballs

The formal scientific name for hairballs is trichobezoar. Fluffy’s dedication to grooming herself is for the most part one of the many great perks of having a cat.  Your meowing little diva may spend up to a third of her time grooming herself and making sure her pretty fur looks nice and neat. Sadly, in the process, your animal buddy will inevitably eat some of her own hair. This isn’t a matter of choice. Cat tongues are coated with papillae, which are microscopic filaments. (That’s the reason your cat’s tongue feels like sandpaper.)  those hairs are angled in a specific way, which helps ensure that everything Fluffy swallows—fur included—goes down her throat

Probably not much has to be said about what happens next. After gagging and retching, Fluffy will leave a pretty unappealing mess on the floor. (Or on the sofa). As in your case.) We’ll save the debate about whether cats deliberately leave hairballs in specific areas for another blog. Suffice it to say this isn’t the cutest part of cat ownership.

How Many Hairballs Is Considered Normal

Fluffy would seldom ever, if ever, get hairballs in a purrfect world. In reality, your cute pet most likely gets them more often than either of you would want. The exact frequency might differ from kitty to kitty, but the usual range of ‘normal’ is no more than once every week or two. If Fluffy gets them more often than that, contact your vet; there may be an issue.

How Diet Affects Hairballs

Switching to a canned food diet certainly won’t hurt, and it may very well benefit your feline pal in other ways as well. However, this probably won’t fix the issue entirely.


There are a number of things to think about when choosing between feeding your feline friend dry food, wet food, or both, such as her age and health, dietary restrictions, meal schedules, and, of course, cost. Ask your vet for specific advice on what to feed your furball.


How To Prevent Hairballs


There are no guarantees, but there are definitely some things you can do that can benefit your cherished purring friend.


At the top of our list, we have brushing. The key is to gather the dead fur before your feline companion swallows it. (Note: Brushing also promotes good circulation. Plus, it’s often a pretty good purr starter. Many of our feline buddies really enjoy being spoiled!


Then we have hairball prevention products. As the name suggests, these are formulated to help. Please check with your veterinarian before recommending any vitamins or products, though. Every kitty is different!


Applying pet jelly on Fluffy’s paw might help a bit as well. She’ll lick it off while grooming herself, giving her digestive system some extra lubrication. Be sure to only use products that have been approved by veterinarians.


 You may also be able to offer your feline buddy a can of sardines or tuna now and then; the oil in them can be somewhat helpful. Only watch out not to overdo it. For cats with particular medical conditions, such thyroid difficulties, this would also not be suitable.


Fluffy needs to be kept hydrated as well. She might enjoy a little kitty fountain. Drinking running water appeals to many cats. (This could be as a result of the higher likelihood of parasite, algae, and bacterial contamination of standing water in the wild).


Finally, we strongly recommend keeping your furry little pal inside. The climatic changes that produce excessive shedding are less likely to affect cats who stay indoors. She won’t be rolling about in the dust, either. Of course, we always recommend keeping cats indoors, just for safety reasons. Fluffy will be protected from cars, wild animals, and bad weather, which is of course far safer for her. Local fauna will be better safeguarded by this as well. Our cute feline friends murder billions of tiny creatures every year! 


What If My Feline Companion Isn’t Able to Throw Up Her Hairball?

Occasionally hairballs can cause serious medical issues. Should the hairball get lodged in your animal friend’s system and she is unable to pass it up, she may experience serious health problems. Both painful and perhaps dangerous, intestinal blockages and ruptures should not be treated lightly. Seek out other indications that something is awry. Among the signs to watch for include dry heaving, diarrhea, coughing, constipation, decreased appetite, withdrawal, and excessive, bloody, or foamy vomiting. 

If you notice any of these, call your vet right away. Finding the cause of some of these symptoms is crucial, since these things can point to major medical issues. Better still, the earlier anything is identified and addressed!

Any Cat Can Get Hairballs

Some longhaired kitties, such as Maine Coons and Persians, are particularly prone to hairballs. However, any cat—except of course for hairless ones—is at risk. Keep in mind that certain short-haired cats can have extremely thick coats and can be quite likely to get hairballs.

Say you have a fluffy cat on your hands. We advise consistent combing of her. This will lessen tangles and snarls as well.

How To Brush A Cat Without Getting Scratched

Wait until your feline friend is calm and relaxed. Next, start petting her, constantly going in the same direction as her fur. Slowly add the brush after Fluffy starts her engine.

Be careful not to pull too hard! You might need to clip your cat’s hair if it knots and you can’t readily remove them using a detangling brush. Cut only using round-ended scissors. A plastic letter opener with a portion sliced out of it also works.

You don’t want to force things. When your cat decides she’s had enough, release her. Forcefully making her surrender will most likely only get you scratched. Plus, the next time, Fluffy will likewise be even less willing to let you brush her!

Offering your adorable pet a delicious treat together with lots of love and admiration will help to sweeten the pot. 

Synopsis: While they are definitely not the most appealing aspect of owning a cat, hairballs are not uncommon. Owners do need to know when a feline friend is producing too many hairballs and when something more serious is going on.

Set a Time to Visit Your Bel Air, MD Veterinary Clinic

Have you any questions about the health or care of your cat? Contacting us at any time is welcome. We are here to help, as your neighborhood Bel Air, MD pet hospital!

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