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. Cats are especially prone to hairball formation since they groom themselves by licking their fur, and thereby ingest it.
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.