Anybody who has ever had a pet cat can probably tell you something about hairballs. Often a regular part of your cat’s life, hairballs are bits of undigested hair that get caught in the stomach or small intestine of your cat. During grooming you cat can ingest a lot of hair and this hair can interrupt digestion and cause some discomfort.
Cats clean themselves by licking their coats and because a cat’s tongue has a rough texture hair can become caught in these papillae and is then ingested. In many cases, your cat will be unable to spit out the hair causing this loose fur to be swallowed. Eventually a hair ball is formed and your cat will try to get it out by gagging, vomiting, or retching.
Moreover, hairballs can have serious implications for digestive health. Indeed, cats with hairballs often display various symptoms of digestive problems.
- Coughing, retching, or gagging
- Decreased appetite
- Swollen abdomen
- Weight loss
If you suspect your cat has a hairball, don’t worry. Most of the time hairballs are a natural part of a cat’s life. While these hairballs may cause discomfort, they are usually harmless. Still, more serious complications can occur if the hairball becomes especially large or dense. Hairballs have the potential for blocking the intestinal tract and may need to be removed surgically.
One of the best ways to deal with hairballs is to prevent them. Regular grooming, especially brushing, helps to keep the problems associated with hairballs at bay. When you regularly brush your cat you remove loose hair and prevent it from being ingested when you cat grooms itself. Plus, there is a great side benefit of brushing: it keeps hair off your carpet and furniture!