How does my cat develop a hairball?

Hairballs are disgusting, annoying and, for the new cat owner who might possibly be seeing it for the first time, frightening.

All cats are prone to developing hairballs, especially longhaired felines. They have more hair than the shorter-haired breeds.

Hairballs are mainly caused by the cat’s grooming routine. As she licks, the barbs on her tongue capture dead hair or fur. Hairballs generally pass through the cat’s GI tract and are, eventually, eliminated. However, some of it can remain and build up in the stomach, together with little bits of food or other items, and then the cat will need to vomit the offending object.

Some of the ways you can know if there’s a hairball problem:
• The hairball appears as a cylindrical (cigar-shaped) mass on the floor or furniture
• Constipation or hard stools with hair showing
• Dry, matted coat
• Frequent dry coughing or hacking, particularly after meals
• Lack of interest in eating
• Depression or lethargy

Although most people are familiar with it, if you’re a new cat owner or witnessing it for the first time, hairballs can be a little scary, because the cat will hack or retch and will probably look distressed. She’s not, though; hairballs, for the most part, don’t cause any serious problem.
But if your cat is gagging for more than one day or if she seems constipated or has diarrhea, please see your veterinarian. In rare cases, hairballs can get stuck in the esophagus or cause intestinal blockages, which may require surgery to correct. These symptoms can also be signs of a more serious condition. It’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian if you see any of these abnormal clinical signs.

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