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Cat Hairballs: Causes And Treatment

Cat hairballs are very common in cats. Most longhaired cats and some shorthaired cats will develop them at some time in their lives. In some cases, you will not notice. The cat may pass or vomit its hairballs out in the yard so you are not aware of it. Often, however, you will see them suffering from them in the house, and occasionally they can cause a life-threatening blockage in your pet’s digestive system. So let’s find out a little more about cat hairballs.

Cat hairballs or trichobezoars are caused by the routine grooming that cats do. If they are shedding, they can swallow a lot of hair while grooming. Most of the time this will just pass through the digestive system, but it can remain in the stomach in a mass that grows as more hair joins it.

Cats living in warm homes and warm climates shed more hair than they would in the wild, so hairballs are more likely to develop in domestic cats. However, they can easily be prevented if you are willing to brush your cat often. Cats love being brushed, it helps your pet to bond with you and it is something that you can easily do. Make it part of your routine every couple of days to spend quality brushing time with your pet, and cat hairballs are much less likely to become an issue.

There are other ways to prevent cat hairballs. Some owners say that giving the cat a little extra fiber a couple of times a week, in the form of plain canned pumpkin or mashed squash (with no added ingredients), prevents hairballs in cats. There are also remedies and special foods that you can buy. However, it is best to talk with your veterinarian before treating your cat with any products like these, because they could cause nutritional deficiencies in the long term.

Often, no treatment is necessary. Cat hairballs may be vomited up without too much difficulty. If your cat is coughing in a way that looks like it might be about to throw up, it may be trying to expel a hairball. After a short time you should find a lump of matted hair that it has brought up, usually on the floor. A cat will not use the litter box for this.

A hairball is usually sausage-shaped rather than round. It may have food mixed with it but you will see that there is a lot of matted hair. After getting it out, the cat is usually fine, although some cats may be a little tired or lack appetite for a short time after bringing up a hairball.

Sometimes a cat cannot get a hairball out of its system either through the bowels or by vomiting. In that situation, it can block the digestive system, causing painful constipation in mild cases and requiring urgent surgical removal in more serious cases.

So how would you know if your cat had a hairball that was becoming dangerous? Of course, if the cat is constantly trying to vomit it up and not succeeding, you would probably see that. Additionally, if a hairball is causing impaction in the gut, the cat is likely to stop eating and show signs of intestinal pain. They usually also have constipation and seem depressed or lethargic.

If you notice any of these symptoms, your pet should see a veterinary surgeon right away to check that it has not developed an impacted hairball. Pets who suffer from cat hairballs more than once a month should also see the veterinarian, even if they are easily passed.

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