Slimy balls of saliva filled hair…. Fun stuff, right?
Wrong. Especially if you step on one!
These are the not-so-glamourous parts of cat ownership. Don’t worry! It’s worth it for the companionship, but hairballs are bound to happen once in a while. If you are only seeing them occur occasionally, you likely have nothing to worry about. If your cat is producing hairballs quite frequently, you might want to schedule a visit with the veterinarian.
What is causing my cat to have hairballs at all?
You know all of that self-grooming you witness your cat doing regularly? That is completely normal, and of course, they swallow some hair in the process! Their kitty bodies are well-equipped to handle the passing through of some hair. It’s not necessarily digestible, but it does come out in their poop. Sometimes, if they have swallowed just a tad too much, it forms into a ball in their belly, and at some point, it wants OUT! If it is too big, your cat can’t pass it in their poop, but their esophagus does a wonderful job of squeezing it to an appropriate size and bringing it up the other way.
Voila! A hairball is born.
What can excessive hairballs potentially be a sign of?
It could be a few different things, which your veterinarian will help you narrow down, but for starters, your cat’s gut health could be out of check. If something is off with their gut, their digestive tract will be the first indicator, and if things are not passing through appropriately, hair may get backed up and produce multiple hairballs that need to come out the other way!
Another possibility is overgrooming. If your cat is cleaning themself more than normal, they can swallow too much hair for their digestive tract to handle. Overgrooming could be due to a number of things; stress, anxiety, big life changes, allergies, and more! Your veterinarian can also help you to narrow down these reasons and address the problem at its core.
Are hairballs dangerous?
Only if they don’t come out. If you notice your cat repeatedly trying to get a hairball out with no success, or notice other symptoms like lethargy, lack of appetite, diarrhea, or constipation, you want to seek medical care immediately. You don’t want a hairball blockage occurring, and these things could be a sign of that.
Hairballs are GROSS! Is there any way to prevent them?
Probably not forever and always. They do tend to come with the territory of being a cat parent, but you can take steps to decrease their frequency!
If your cat will allow it, try and brush them regularly! It is appealing that cats self-groom, and perhaps you didn’t sign up for regular brushing, but it can help you to wiggle out some loose hairs and keep your kitty from swallowing too much when they groom themselves.
More frequent meals is another option! Many owners do a bigger breakfast and a bigger dinner. If you break those meals into smaller ones and give them more frequently throughout the day, it will keep that digestive tract moving right along and eliminate too much hair buildup!
Hairballs are ALL worth it for the love of our feline friends, that is for sure!