What to do About Hairballs?

What are hairballs anyways? We don’t own cats – I’ve been severely allergic my whole life, so I’ve never been exposed to them. I’ve heard of hairballs and always assumed it’s hair swallowed by the cat when they are grooming that doesn’t get digested properly and grows into a ball. How did I do on that assumption?
Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:
A hairball is a small collection of hair or fur formed in the stomach of animals that is occasionally vomited up when it becomes too big. Hairballs are primarily a tight elongated cylinder of packed fur, but may include bits of other elements such as swallowed food. Hairballs are sometimes mistaken for other conditions of the stomach such as lymphosarcoma, tuberculosis, and tumour of the spleen.[1] Cats are especially prone to hairball formation since they groom themselves by licking their fur, and thereby ingest it.
Brushes cat comb Isolated on white background
Guess I was spot on. But are they dangerous to your cat? And what do you do about them?
They can be potentially dangerous as they can cause choking or intestinal blockage which may require surgery. A cat who grooms itself regularly and long haired cats are more susceptible to hairballs. They may even throw-up a hairball regularly. You should start to worry when they are lethargic or refusing to eat, or retching and gagging but not bringing anything up. A quick trip to the vet is required at that point.
You can minimize the development of hairballs but keeping your cat well groomed so they don’t feel as much need to do it themselves. You might also consider a hairball medication – which is really a lubricant that will help the hairball to pass through the digestive system.
Additional Readings:

A Hairy Dilemma
12 Surprising Home Cures For Your Cat’s Hairballs

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  1. Our kitties get a good brushing once a week and they rarely get a hairball. If Mom slacks off on the brushing, they will get hairballs.
    Emma recently posted…Should You Brush Your Dog’s TeethMy Profile

    • Your mom is smart Emma, she takes good care of all of you.
      KitKat recently posted…What to do About Hairballs?My Profile

  2. Sam doesn’t really like being brushed, but I try to do it some. Back in the “old days” they used to say to butter a cats’ paws….they would lick the butter off and that would help prevent hairballs. We used to feed hairball control food to one of our cats that seemed to have a big problem with it, but I’m not really sure how much that helped.
    I used to think it was not a big deal anyway….you just had to clean it up every once in a while, but lately it seems like I’ve been seeing more cats needing surgery because of this.
    Jan K recently posted…Tuesday’s Tails – Meet MariaMy Profile

    • Yeah, it sounds kind of serious if that can’t manage to get it up.
      KitKat recently posted…What to do About Hairballs?My Profile

  3. Switching to canned cat food good really cut down on the amount of issues my cats have had with hairballs. I imagine the difference was that on dry food they weren’t getting enough fluid to keep the hair they ingested moving through their system.
    dawn recently posted…52 Snapshots of Life- WinterMy Profile

    • Agree – it’s the natural oils in the canned that helps it move.
      KitKat recently posted…What to do About Hairballs?My Profile

      • I lean more to the amount of water in the food that help keep the GI tract healthy and moving. Cats originated in the dessert where there isn’t a lot of water so their bodies were developed to get their moisture from their food. Because of this they don’t have the same sense of thirst that humans or dogs have so when they are on a dry diet they aren’t taking in as much water as they need. By eating canned food they are getting more moisture that helps the hair move through the system as it’s ingested rather than to collect in the stomach only to end up on the carpet or couch.
        dawn recently posted…52 Snapshots of Life- WinterMy Profile

  4. A good indication of a hair ball besides throwing up fur is throwing up undigested food. It can’t get past the hairball so it comes up so treat with some laxatone to get things lubed but if continues need to get to the vet.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…The Bachelorette ~ Mischief MondayMy Profile

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