A woman runs a comb through a cat's hair.

Hairballs are an unfortunate part of life for many cats and their owners. Most cats will experience at least one in their lifetime and anyone who witnesses a hacking fit by their cat can generally guess what comes next. 

That’s right, a nasty wad of hair and stomach fluids! While there are a lot of things to be said about the gross factor, it’s important to understand what these occurrences are and whether or not they are related to something serious. The team at Evendale-Blue Ash Pet Hospital is here to investigate the myselty of hairballs in cats and their prevention.

What Is a Hairball?

A hairball is a clump of undigested fur that is formed in the stomach. It can appear as a long cylindrical-shaped wad of fur that contains fur, undigested food, and digestive fluids. When this collection becomes too large, it can cause a cat to vomit the contents. 

Cats are fastidious creatures and they spend a great deal of team cleaning themselves. During the process of self-grooming, fur is also swallowed. Over time, a hairball can develop, since hair is hard to digest, and will remain in the stomach. 

Are Hairballs Harmful?

The rare hairball or two each year isn’t a problem for most cats and nothing to worry about. Vomiting, however, is never to be considered normal, nor is the ongoing occurrence of hairballs. There are times of year when you may notice more hairball incidents. This is because, especially with long-haired felines, shedding will occur seasonally

Naturally, the more a cat sheds, the more likely they are to ingest more hair. The good news is that many of these stray strands are pushed through the digestive tract without any problems. But when a cat is grooming more, the fur may have a greater chance of collecting in the stomach.

In rare cases, this ball of fur can become large enough to become a blockage in the GI tract. There are known cases of surgical removal when a hairball becomes too large to vomit up or move through during normal digestion.

Sometimes, too, hairballs can indicate other illnesses or conditions. Increased vomiting happens as a symptom of certain diseases like kidney disease, parasitic infection, hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, and poisoning.

Please contact us if your pet is experiencing increased vomiting and other symptoms you are concerned about. We hope, through a careful examination, to give you peace of mind that it isn’t anything serious, but it should be followed up about nonetheless. 

Preventing Hairballs in Cats

While there is no complete cure for hairballs, there are several things you can do to decrease the problem in your furry loved one. 

  • Brush your cat out each day using a special comb or brush to loosen dead hair
  • Consider taking your cat to the grooming salon once a  month to be bathed and brushed out
  • Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on special diets and supplements that can reduce shedding as well as furballs

If you have noticed more frequent hairballs or that your cat is experiencing a change in their overall skin condition or health, please contact us. We can offer additional suggestions and give your best kitty companion a thorough examination.