Hairballs are a common and natural occurrence in the life of a cat. A hairball is literally a ball of cat hair that becomes matted together with stomach fluids inside the stomach. The scientific name for hairball is trichobezoar.
Hairballs are more common in long- haired cats, but all cats can develop a hairball. Cats groom and clean their fur by licking. Any loose fur is swallowed by your cat and most of it will pass through the digestive system normally. However, some fur will likely stay within the stomach, resulting in a mass of fur forming.
When a hair ball forms in your cat’s stomach, it can cause constipation and coughing or hacking. The coughing and hacking is your cat’s way of trying to bring up the hairball. When your cat throws up the hairball it will likely be sticky from the stomach fluid and excess fluid or food may come out with the hairball. It’s not very fun to clean up, but it is part of the responsibility of cat ownership.
If you suspect your cat is eating materials other than hair, you can investigate the hairball for clues. I recently discovered lots of multi-colored fuzz and a few pieces of shower curtain. Ultimately, you can’t observe your cat at all times and they will probably eat weird things. By determining what your cat is eating you can watch out for that behavior and discourage it.
Prevention and Treatment of Hairballs
- Grooming and brushing your cat often removes excess fur. This results in less of the loose fur ending up in your cat’s stomach and less hairballs.
- Hairball remedies are petroleum or oil based products that make it easier for your cat to either pass or vomit their hairball. These are usually flavored to be tasty to cats.
- Hairball treats and hairball formulation food are also available. These contain ingredients which promote the easy passing of hairballs. There are many available brands and you can ask your veterinarian for suggestions.
For more information about cat fur read the Healthy Cat Fur Guide!
Jennifer Kean is a writer and pet-lover who owns two rescue kittens (lifetime cat owner too!) and has a 40 gallon fish tank!