Cat Hairballs – What Do I Need to Know?

Cat Hairballs - What Do I Need to Know?

Being a cat parent brings many joys to our lives. However, hairballs can be an unpleasant reality of caring for your furry companion. So, what can you do to minimize cat hairballs? As your trusted cat hospital in Kirkland, WA, we’re happy to offer tips and information to help you care for your feline friend. 

What Causes Cat Hairballs?

As cats groom themselves, tiny hook-like barbs on their tongues catch loose or dead hair, which they then swallow. Most of the hair passes through the digestive tract without any issues. However, some of these hairs remain in the cat’s stomach, gradually getting tangled and producing hairballs. 

When cats try to bring up hairballs, they often gag, retch, dry heave, or sound like they’re trying to vomit. Hairballs aren’t what you’d expect. They usually look like tube-shaped wads of fur as they’re forced up through the esophagus. 

How Can You Prevent Hairballs in Cats?

There are several ways you can reduce the risk of hairballs in your cat, including the following: 

  • Regular Brushing: Brushing your cat’s fur regularly helps remove loose hairs, preventing them from being ingested during grooming. This is also a perfect opportunity to bond with your furry companion.
  • Food Formulated for Hairballs: If your feline friend coughs up hairballs regularly, you may want to switch to specially formulated cat foods designed to prevent hairball formation. These foods typically contain fiber, minerals, and oil, which help move the swallowed hairs through the digestive tract. 
  • Cat Grass: Providing cat grass may help your feline friend vomit out hairballs more easily. It is a natural irritant to the stomach lining, prompting your cat to expel hairballs. Keep in mind that not every cat should be allowed to ingest grass, such as those with additional GI issues; it’s best to check with your veterinarian first to see if grass is appropriate for your cat.
  • Hydration: Ensuring your cat drinks plenty of water can help prevent hairballs. Well-hydrated cats are more likely to pass hair through their digestive system without incident.
  • Reduce Stress: Stress can lead to excessive grooming, increasing the risk of hairballs. Make sure your cat has a comfortable and safe environment to relax.
  • Hairball Treatments: There are various hairball remedies available, both over-the-counter and prescription. They typically contain lubricants or enzymes that help to break down hairballs.

When Should You See a Veterinarian?

While the occasional hairball is typically no cause for concern, some instances call for a vet visit. While rare, hairballs can grow large to the point where they can no longer pass or get lodged in the digestive tract, causing a blockage. This is considered an emergency, requiring urgent care and sometimes even surgical intervention. 

Signs your cat needs urgent care include the following:

  • Coughing up hairballs more than usual
  • Trying to vomit with no success
  • Frequent coughing
  • A sudden decrease in appetite
  • Refusing to drink
  • An active cat becoming lethargic or withdrawn
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • A bloated, hard abdomen

Quality Veterinary Care Near Me 

If you’d like more tips on staying ahead of cat hairballs, contact All About Cats Veterinary Hospital in Kirkland, WA. We are happy to offer tips and trusted care to help prevent hairballs from becoming a serious issue for you and your furry friend. You can count on us for exceptional cat care because, after all, we are all about cats!

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425-636-8201 phone
425-968-2996 fax

6501 132nd Ave NE
Kirkland, WA 98033

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