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Hairballs 101

If you own a cat, you’ve probably had to deal with a hairball at least once or twice. The question is, are these unsightly occurrences safe for cats, and can you do anything to help your cat produce less of them? Learn more below from your Westminster, MD veterinarian.

What Causes Hairballs?

When your cat grooms herself, tiny barbs lining the tongue pick up loose hair from the coat, which your cat swallows. Most of this hair moves through your cat’s digestive tract and gets expelled naturally in the feces, but some of it remains in the gut. That hair eventually forms into a hairball, which your cat regurgitates.

Your cat will probably gag and retch for a few moments before producing the hairball, and the hairball itself will actually be more tubular than round, as it’s passed through the narrow tube of the esophagus.

Are Hairballs Safe for My Cat?

The occasional hairball is a natural part of life for most cats, and it shouldn’t cause your feline friend any harm. If your cat hacks up a hairball every now and again, there’s no need to worry.

However, if your cat’s hairball production has drastically increased to the point where she’s regurgitating every day or producing multiple hairballs a day, it’s time to see the vet. If your cat is gagging and retching but not producing an actual hairball, you should rush your cat to the emergency room—the hairball or another object may be stuck in your cat’s throat. Additionally, frequent vomiting of any kind should be seen as a medical symptom; take your cat to the vet’s office to have her examined.

Can I Do Anything to Minimize Hairball Production?

While the occasional hairball is a part of life for cat owners, it’s rather unpleasant—both for you and your cat! There are a few things you can do to help minimize hairball production. First, groom your cat with a brush on a daily basis. This traps much of the loose fur that your cat would otherwise swallow, vastly reducing hairballs. For cats who produce hairballs more frequently or for cats with long coats of fur, specialized diets and dietary supplements can help hair move through the digestive system smoothly; ask your vet for a recommendation.

Would you like to learn more about your feline friend’s grooming or dietary needs? Contact your Westminster, MD vet clinic today.

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