Understanding Your Cat’s Hairballs

It’s one of the more unpleasant aspects of owning a cat: seeing and hearing your feline friend coughing up a hairball, probably directly onto your clean carpets or furniture. How much do you know about Fluffy’s hairballs? Below, your Tipp City, OH veterinarian fills you in.

How and Why Do Hairballs Form?

Hairballs are a natural occurrence—when your cat grooms herself, tiny barbs lining her tongue pick up loose and dead fur off of the coat. She swallows that hair, and most of it moves through the digestive tract in a normal fashion to get expelled in the fecal matter. Some of the swallowed hair remains in the gut, though, and clumps together to form a hairball. The hairball gets regurgitated eventually, along with a bit of stomach fluid.

Do Hairballs Hurt My Cat?

Hairballs aren’t pretty, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a pleasant experience for your feline friend. But do they hurt your cat in any way?

No, hairballs don’t harm your cat. They’re a natural part of life, and the occasional hairball is absolutely nothing to worry about. With that being said, a cat who is coughing up hairballs frequently should be examined at the vet’s office, as something could be causing her to swallow more hair than normal. Also, coughing up a hairball and vomiting are two very different things—any cat who is vomiting frequently should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.

If your cat is retching and gagging but not producing anything, call the vet’s office—she might be choking on a hairball or foreign object.

Can I Help My Cat Cough Up Fewer Hairballs?

Yes, there are a few simple steps you can take to help minimize your cat’s hairball production. First, brush her on a regular basis. This traps loose fur in the brush itself, which means your cat isn’t swallowing as much and therefore doesn’t produce as many hairballs.

Secondly, make sure your cat is receiving a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet. Feeding your cat a great diet is one of the best ways to make sure the coat stays in pristine shape and shedding is kept to a minimum. When your cat’s skin and hair follicles receive the nutrients they need, the coat benefits! Ask your vet to recommend a great choice that suits your cat’s age, weight, and breed.

To learn more, contact your Tipp City, OH vet clinic.

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