Hairballs in Cats!

Every owner knows that familiar sound… YEK YEK YEK!! Queue the lightning speed bolt to find the cat and move them to an appropriate tiled or hard floor surface for the event… Please not on the carpet!! Yep – it’s a hairball!

What are hairballs?

Hairballs, or trichobezaors, are a tubular shaped matting of fur that the cat vomits back up when the hairball is too big to pass through the stomach. The hairball often contains semi-digested food or grass. When cats groom, their rough tongues collect all of the loose hair which is swallowed and normally passed through the digestive tract without issue.

Are they a problem?

Hairballs are usually harmless. Many long haired breeds such as persians and maine coon cats are more prone to hairballs as they swallow more fur. However there are some signs to look out for in your cat that could mean there is a hairball that needs veterinary attention:

  • repeated retching, gagging or coughing without producing a hairball
  • lethargy
  • vomiting
  • reduced appetite
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea

One of the main concerns with severe hairballs is that they can cause internal blockage in the intestines. If your cat is displaying any of the above symptoms for longer than 24 hours, give us a call.

How can I prevent them?

Although hairballs can’t be eliminated entirely, there are some steps you can take to manage hairballs:

  1. Brushing

Regular grooming with a good quality fur eliminating brush can help reduce the amount of fur your cat swallows. If your cat isn’t keen on the idea of brushing, use positive reinforcement (plenty of treats!) to get them used to the idea. Liquid cat treats in squeezable tubes are great to keep your cat occupied for longer periods of time.

  1. Diet

Increasing the amount of fibre in your cat’s diet can help to bind the hair and stimulate the intestine, aiding the hairball to pass through the digestive tract naturally. Hill’s Science Diet™ make special formulations for cats prone to hairballs – ask our team today for help finding the right one!

  1. Laxatives

Medications such as cat laxatives often have a paraffin base which provides safe lubrication for the hairball to pass through. Using a small amount once or twice a week can make a big difference, especially if there is mild constipation involved as well.

  1. Behaviour

For some cats, hairballs are a result of excessive grooming often caused by anxiety or skin problems. If you have noticed changes in the grooming habits of your cat, call us to book a consultation with behaviour vet Dr Isabelle Resch.  We can help make life easier for you and your feline pal!

Dealing with the aftermath

Hairballs are often a pain to clean up as they can contain undigested food and are sometimes accompanied by bile, which leaves an unsightly stain on carpets and furniture. Enzyme based cleaning products, a white or light coloured cloth, and a bristled brush work well on stubborn stains. Use a circular motion on the perimeter of the stain working inwards to not spread it. Retreat as necessary, and be sure to do a spot test with the product first.