Gack! Are Hairballs Normal?
All of a sudden you hear the distinct sound of your cat in the next room, making unruly noises. Next comes that disgusting ball of fur and stomach fluids. Hairballs make even the biggest cat lovers cringe, and wonder “Is this normal?”.
The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center get this question a lot and are here to discuss this most yucky of all cat behaviors.
What Is a Hairball?
A hairball, technically called a trichobezoar, is a collection of undigested fur that forms into elongated or round balls covered in saliva and stomach fluids. The fluids may appear yellow or clear and resemble vomit, but with the accumulated hair.
Many pet owners assume that the hairballs are a normal cat thing and nothing to worry about. Sometimes hairballs occur once a year, perhaps twice, but if they are occurring frequently, it can signal a problem.
Cats groom themselves and this process can cause them to accidentally ingest the loose fur. Most of the time, and in a healthy cat, these hairs simply pass through the digestive system. If the hairballs form in the digestive system, that’s not normal for most cats and can mean that your cat is over-grooming. Overgrooming occurs typically in ill and older cats.
When Hairballs Indicate a Medical Problem
The occasional hairball may not be cause for a call to your veterinarian, but if your cat is regurgitating these wads of fur, it can be a red flag. Some issues related to hairballs that are health related include:
- An obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract (emergency)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Stomach or intestinal cancer
- Parasite infestation
- Underlying disease, such as kidney disease
If your pet has suddenly started self-grooming more, or is experiencing hairballs, please contact us for an appointment.
Can They Be Prevented?
If the hairballs are determined to be normal and nothing to be concerned about, you probably want to keep your pet from experiencing them anyway. Unfortunately, there is no absolute way to prevent hairballs, but you can take some steps to reduce their occurrence.
- Brush your cat frequently and consider giving them a bath every few weeks.
- Feed your cat a diet that is designed to reduce hairballs.
- Look for treats that are formulated to reduce hairballs.
- Over the counter hairball remedies can be purchased online or at pet supply stores.
For more information on hairballs, please contact us. Although they may be a disgusting thing to consider, excessive hairballs can tell us that there is an underlying medical issue. Always follow up with us if hairballs are a problem for your furry friend.
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