Your Feline Friend’s Hairballs

For most cat owners, hairballs are a part of life. That doesn’t mean they’re a pleasant experience! Have you ever wondered why your cat expels hairballs, and if there’s anything you can do to help minimize them? Learn more below as your Farmers Branch, TX vet goes over the basics of Fluffy’s hairballs.

What Causes Hairballs, Exactly?

Tiny barbs on your cat’s tongue pick up hair when she grooms herself. This hair is swallowed, and the majority of it moves through the digestive tract and is expelled naturally in your cat’s feces. Some hair, though, remains in the digestive tract. Eventually, it builds up into a hairball and is regurgitated.

When your cat produces a hairball, you’ll probably see her gag and retch for a few moments before actually producing the hairball. It’s worth noting that the hairball will probably be tubular rather than round, as it’s passed through the esophageal tube.

Are Hairballs Safe for My Cat?

The occasional hairball is a perfectly normal part of life for your cat, unpleasant as it may be for you to clean up. As unsightly as it may seem when your cat is expelling the hairball, it shouldn’t harm her in any way.

However, if you see your cat gagging and retching without actually producing a hairball, it’s time to see the vet. This could mean that the hairball or another object is stuck in your cat’s windpipe, potentially blocking her airway. Additionally, if your cat’s hairball production has dramatically increased in frequency, it’s worth a veterinary examination. Finally, it’s important to note that vomiting is not the same as producing a hairball—if your cat is vomiting frequently, she may be seriously ill.

Can I Make Hairballs Occur Less Frequently?

There are a few simple steps you can take to help your cat produce fewer hairballs, although you probably won’t eliminate them entirely. First, grooming your cat with a brush will greatly reduce the amount of loose hair she swallows, ultimately reducing hairball production while keeping your cat’s skin and fur in tip-top shape. For cats who produce a lot of hairballs, specialized “hairball formula” diets, dietary supplements, or specialty products could be prescribed by your veterinarian to help reduce hairball frequency. Talk to your vet for more information.

Schedule an appointment with your Farmers Branch, TX veterinary clinic if your cat is due for an exam. We’re here to help!

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