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  • Post published:28/04/2021
  • Post last modified:28/04/2021

Fluffy is lounging around on the couch, napping and enjoying the day like any good cat would, but suddenly she wakes up, sits up and throws up. You are alarmed and immediately go to her, and find out that among the digested food, there is something that looks like a hairy tube. That is cat’s hairball.

Throwing up hairball happens sometimes with adult cat, especially those with long hair. So, don’t freak out about your cat’s digestive system when you encounter cat’s hairball (although freaking out about cleaning the mess is another thing). It usually happens only once or twice in a year; after the loose hair is accumulated in the belly. If it happens more than that; however; it’s not normal.

However; hairball that gets too big can be dangerous. But; how can you tell when the throwing up is dangerous or not? Learn about hairball in cat in this article and find out.

What is Cat Hairball

Tabby cat sniffs green grass in the garden

Once in a while, a cat will throw up hairball from his stomach. The hairball comes from the loose hair, stuck on his tongue during grooming, and entered the digestive system. This is a very natural occurrence, so natural that even cat’s digestive system is actually designed to pass the hairball through the intestines and expel it through feces.
However; sometimes there are too many hairs accumulated inside the stomach and the body has no choice but to expel it back via esophagus instead of let it pass through the intestines. Because the hairball is expelled via esophagus; the shape of the hairball is usually a long cylinder instead of round.

Cat hairball happens more often in long-haired breeds of cat since they have more hair that can be accidentally ingested and get tangled inside their stomach. It is also happens more often in adult cats; since they have better grooming behavior than their younger counterparts. Also; it happens most often during spring; as cats will shed their long winter coat to prepare for warmer weather.

When Does It Become Dangerous?

Cat hairball becomes dangerous when it gets too big and obscuring the passageway of the digestive system – which in medical word is known as gastrointestinal blockage. Depending on the severity; gastrointestinal blockage may disturb the absorption of nutrition from the food ingested; causing malnutrition. In can also disturb the process of discarding unnecessary nutrition; causing the extra nutrition to be toxic.

When it becomes too big; it also doesn’t fit through the esophagus and therefore your cat cannot throw it up. Your cat will experience pain in his stomach and will gag often without actually throwing up the hairball. The pain can make the cat sluggish and lethargic.

If the hairball does happen to cause gastrointestinal blockage; your vet may gives prescription of lactation. However; if the blockage is too severe; the vet may not have any other choice than perform surgery – which can be taxing both for you and your cat’s emotional well being.

The key not to let that happen is to pay attention to your cat’s condition. Regular hairball vomiting – while disgusting; is not dangerous. However; take your cat to the veterinarian immediately if she shows any or several of these symptoms:

1. Frequent hairball vomiting; more than twice a year.

Normal digestive system in cat is equipped to deal with accidentally ingested hair. If it can’t process the hair and expel it through the waste; then there could be something wrong.

2. Frequent vomiting; but without the hairball

Since the hairball can’t get past the esophagus; the cat will still get nauseous but unable to get rid of the source.

3. Gagging; retching; dry-heaving; or acting like she is about to throw up but never get to

4. Lack of appetite; check if she eats the same amount as she usually does or less than that

5. Lethargy and sluggishness; check if she sleeps more than usual

6. Diarrhea; check if her stool is loose and if her bottom is wet

7. Constipation; check if her bowel movement is normal in both appearance and frequency

What Can You Do to Prevent It?

There are several ways to prevent hairball from forming:

1. Don’t let your cat groom too much

Since hairball is practically a result from a cat’s grooming habit; you may want to watch her grooming behavior. Do you find her licking her hair every time you see her? If you think her grooming habit is excessive; she may suffers from compulsive grooming. Distract him from grooming by giving her other activities – such as playing or napping.

2. Give him “hairball control” diet

Many pet food manufacturers these days have products specifically made to strengthen the cat’s coat. Therefore; there will be less of loose hair that may get stuck on her tongue and make its way to her stomach. “Hairball control” food also encourages the hairball to be able to slide via the thin esophagus easily.

There are some home remedies for hairball control as well. Olive oil; coconut oil; and vegetable oil can be given in small amount to help coating the esophagus surface with slimy surface; which make the process of throwing up hairball easier. Mix half a spoon of any of these oils with your cat’s food every week.

3. Brush or comb her daily

Brushing or combing cat’s hair daily sheds the loose hair that otherwise may get stuck to her tongue and ingested. Doing this daily not only prevent the hairball forming; but also keeps the cat’s coat healthy and shiny. Not to mention; it is a bonding opportunity for both of you. Brushing or combing is really important for long-haired breeds such as Persians; since their hair is easier to get pulled and matted.

The conclusion is; while disgusting; hairball is normal occurrence in cat – except when it gets too big and accompanied by one or several of the symptoms above. However; when it comes to our beloved little friend; it’s always better safe than sorry; so it’s worth your time and energy to prevent the hairball problem from happening.

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