Cat Hairballs - What Are They & Can They Hurt Your Cat?

Cat Hairballs - What Are They & Can They Hurt Your Cat?

Author WCF Staff


It is widely known that cats like to clean and groom themselves. During self-grooming, they will swallow a lot of hair, which can turn into hairballs in their stomach. Hairballs are very unpleasant and can cause many health problems for your cat. If you are a cat owner, you have probably noticed your cat gets hairballs, and in most cases, that is nothing to worry about. If you want to know what is causing hairball, how to notice any symptoms, and how to prevent them stay with us and find out.

What is a cat hairball?

Cats like to groom themselves, and they will remove dead hair from their fur during self-grooming. During that process, many individual hairs will get swallowed by the cat. This happens because their tongue has a hook-like structure that faces backward on the tongue. When the cat swallows individual hair in its stomach, that hair will form a hairball. So more specifically, hairballs contain cat hair and digestive juices from the cast stomach.

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Cat hairball symptoms

After the hairball has formed in your cat's stomach, the cat will try to bring her up. The cat will start retching and gagging to remove the hairball. In most cases, your cat can remove hairball pretty quickly.

cat grooming

Will some cats produce more hairballs?

There are no specific cat breeds that will produce more hairballs. There are, however, breeds that are more likely to have hairballs. Longhaired cat breeds are in danger of this problem since they have a lot of fur.

Kittens and younger cats, in most cases, will not experience this problem since they have not developed an intense desire for grooming. Adult cats with grooming habits, especially longhaired breeds, will likely form a hairball in their stomach.

How often do cats create hairballs?

Many cat lovers think that cats will have hairballs weakly, but that is not true. Most of the hair that cats ingest will pass through their digestive system and not create any problem. Cats will form a hairball maybe once a month.

If you notice your cat has lots of hairballs during one month, it is time to check your cat, so the best thing you can do is to call your vet. This can be a serious problem that is causing your cat to have more hairballs. Issues like anxiety, stress, or over-grooming could cause this problem.

cats grooming themselves

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Hairball treatment for cats

Cat hairballs are natural; for the most part, your cat will not need any treatment. If you are determined to help your cat with hairballs, there are a few options you can do.

The best option is to give your cat hairball cat food. This food is fiber-based and will help your cat push hair through the digestive system. Also, this food will help keep cats' fur in better condition, thus causing less hair loss.

How to help cats with hairballs?

Although it may seem painful to watch your cat while she's trying to vomit hairballs, it is entirely natural, and the best thing you can do is to give your cat a lot of space. During that time, you should closely monitor your cat to ensure that she vomits hairball and stop gagging.

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Can hairballs be dangerous?

Hairballs are generally safe, and your cat will not experience any additional health problems. However, there could be a situation where your cat cannot vomit a hairball, leading to some serious issues.

cat grooming herself

If you notice any of these symptoms after your cat has tried to vomit or after your cat has vomited hairball, it could be a sign that your cat isn't alright. You should watch for:

  • Continue vomiting, retching and gagging
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite

The sooner you visit your vet, the better are the chances to potentially save your cat's life.

How to diagnose hairball in cats?

If you bring your cat to the vet, they will have a few ways of diagnosing hairballs. They may use a physical exam or X-ray to confirm the hairballs. Your vet could require surgery if the hairball is too big to pass.

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How to prevent hairballs in cats

If you want to prevent cat hairballs, you can do a few things.

1. Regularly brush your cat

By brushing your cat regularly, you will ensure that all the loose hair doesn't end up in the cat's stomach and thus form a hairball.

orange cat grooming

2. Groomer sessions

If you bring your cat to the groomer for a regular haircut, you can ensure that your cat's fur will be healthier and less hair will be swallowed by your cat. If your cat swallows a hair, it will be much easier to pass it through their system.

3. Hairball specific diet

Providing your cat with the proper diet can do wonders for her health and fur. Food high in fiber will allow all the hair to pass through its system easier.

Cat hairball FAQ

If your cat starts gagging and retching, you can be pretty sure that your cat is trying to vomit a hairball.

Usually, if your cat has a hairball once a month, there is nothing to be concerned about. You should contact your vet if your cat has more frequent hairballs.

Cat hairballs are a natural thing, for the most part, and you have nothing to worry about. Cats will be able to vomit the hairball and continue with their life.

In some situations – yes. Cats can poop out hairballs, but is it most common that they vomit.

In most cases, hairballs will not cause pain for your cat. The problem can arise if your cat cannot vomit hairballs and will continue to retch and gag without vomiting the hairball.

World Cat Finder Team

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