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Answers to Your Hairball FAQs
October 1, 2020

Have you ever witnessed your cat cough up a hairball? Perhaps you’ve run across one in an unexpected corner of the house. In either case, it’s not pleasant. How much do you know about your cat’s hairballs? Learn more below as a Raleigh, NC vet answers your most frequently asked questions.

Why do hairballs form?

When a cat grooms herself, tiny barbs that line the tongue pick up much of the loose or dead fur from your cat’s coat. She proceeds to swallow that fur. Most of it moves through Fluffy’s digestive tract in a normal fashion and gets expelled in the fecal matter, but some stays in the gut. 

The hair that remains in your cat’s stomach forms together into a clump, which gets regurgitated eventually. You’ll notice that most hairballs are tube-shaped, not round, since they’ve just passed through your cat’s esophagus. And most hairballs are accompanied by a bit of stomach fluid, which is perfectly normal. 

Do hairballs present any risk? 

The occasional hairball is a perfectly normal and healthy thing for your cat—it’s just a part of life, unpleasant as it may seem. It’s when hairballs become frequent that you may have cause to worry. It could mean that something is causing your cat to swallow more hair than she should, like a parasitic infestation or a skin infection. 

Take note that vomiting is not the same thing as coughing up a hairball. If your cat is vomiting frequently, it’s time to make an appointment at the vet’s office. And if your cat is gagging and retching but not producing anything, she could be choking on something—the hairball itself, or some other foreign object that she attempted to swallow. Rush Fluffy to the vet’s office for treatment. 

Can I help my cat experience fewer hairballs? 

Yes. You’re not likely to eliminate hairballs completely, but you can make them less frequent. First, feed your cat a high-quality diet. When Fluffy gets the proper nutrition through food, the skin and coat stays healthy and shedding decreases as a result. Secondly, brush your cat regularly to remove all of the loose and dead fur that you can. These steps minimize the amount of hair your cat swallows, thereby making hairballs less likely to occur. 

Want to know more about your cat’s hairballs? Need advice on Fluffy’s grooming regimen? Contact your Raleigh, NC animal hospital. We’re always here for you!

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