What are Hairballs?

If you are a cat owner, chances are you have encountered a hairball at one time or another. Cats are meticulous groomers; they groom to remove old fur, surface dirt, and foreign bodies. When they groom, fur gets caught in the barbs on their tongues (papillae), the fur is then swallowed.

In “healthy” cats, the fur moves through the stomach and passes through the intestinal tract and comes out in the feces. Many pet owners have the misconception that it is normal for cats to bring up hairballs. However, a cat vomiting up hairballs frequently might actually require a trip to the vets.


Do Hairballs pose a threat to a cat’s health?

While an occasional hairball may not warrant a trip to the vet, frequent hairballs or retching without any production should not be ignored. There are a multitude of reasons a cat might bring up a hairball, many of which could point to other underlying issues. Visit your vet if your cat has:

  • Ongoing vomiting, gagging, retching or hacking without producing a hairball
  •  Lack of appetite
  •  Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea


Long haired cats are at a bit of a disadvantage, they have more fur to groom than the average short haired cat. Similarly, a cat that is over grooming has more fur entering the digestive tract that perhaps they cannot get rid of normally. Frequently brushing your long haired cat or keeping their fur clipped short might help to eliminate extra fur. There are many different combs on the market that are specifically designed for this reason.

A diet high in fiber can help to move things through the digestive tract. Hairball remedies are also available –usually a mild petroleum based laxative..

Hairballs are a fact of life at one time or another for most every cat. As a pet owner, keeping an eye on the frequency of hairballs and using preventative measures, you and your cat can live a relatively hairball free life

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