Today is National Hairball Awareness Day!
Everybody associates hairballs with cats but what are they and why do cats get them??
Hairballs form when a cat grooms themselves. The barbs on their tongue, although acting as a great natural hairbrush, stop cats them from spitting the hair back out – dogs don’t have these barbs and thus this problem! They then swallow the hair, and although in most cases it passes through the body normally, in some cats the hair clumps into a larger ball and is coughed up in the form of a hairball. Cats sometimes struggle to cough up these balls – in these cases you may see them retching as the hair irritates their stomach and oesophagus. This is normal to see happening on an occasional basis, however if you see your cat retching to bring up a hairball fairly often, it is worth taking some measures to prevent these hairballs from becoming a problem:
- Brush your cat regularly to prevent them from ingesting too much hair – short haired cats will benefit from being groomed once a week, however long haired cats may benefit from once daily grooming
- Feed an anti-hairball diet, or supplement your cat’s diet with anti-hairball treats – these foods contain vitamins and minerals to improve coat quality and reduce hair loss, and more fibre to the diet to help hairballs pass through the system
- Occasional use of an anti-fur hairball paste such as Katalax – these act as mild laxatives to aid in the passing of hairballs in the faeces if your cat is found straining to pass them!
WARNING – If you’re concerned that your cat is retching/coughing/gagging, never assume that it is a hairball. Seek veterinary attention, especially if they are struggling to breathe or their gums start to turn pale.