What Is A Cat Hairball? Here Are The Hairy Facts Of The Matter!

No cat owner wants to see their pet distressed, but sometimes it happens. Loads of felines suffer with this one, but what is a cat hairball?

what is a cat hairball
Evan Blaser / Flickr

When you choose to take a cat into your home, you make a silent vow to look after them and care for them no matter what. It’s fair to say that pet lovers get particularly worried whenever their cat looks a tad sick. That in itself is totally normal. Coughing and spluttering is the sign of a very common problem with your kitty, so what is a cat hairball and how can you stop your pet getting them?

Are hairballs normal or not?

First, let’s deal with the burning question on everyone’s mind. Are cat hairballs normal or not? This is one of the things that stresses out many cat owners. When you see your kitty struggling to cough up that ball, it may worry you a whole lot. The last thing that you ever need is your cat to be in some kind of pain. But wait a minute, isn’t this whole thing just a normal part of feline life?

The truth is that while cat hairballs aren’t a major problem, they are avoidable. What’s more, they are not particularly comfortable for your kitty to throw-up, and so you should do all that you can to get rid of them sooner rather than later. Let’s take a look at what a cat hairball is and how you can prevent your pet from getting them.

What is a cat hairball?

You’ve likely noticed that your cat grooms themselves a huge percentage of the time. Yes, felines tend to spend most of their waking hours licking themselves. While that means that they are clean animals, it also means that they have to deal with the dreaded hairballs now and then. Yikes.

While your cat is grooming themselves, they are picking up stray hairs from their body. Many of these hairs will be digested (gross, right?), but some will stick in the digestive tract instead. When this happens, they collect and stick together. Mucus forms around them to create a blockage. It’s at this point that your cat will begin to cough them up in the form of a hairball. Scarily enough, there are times when this problem will also be a sign of sickness too.

However, it may sometimes when the cause of these hairballs is more emotional than it is physical. In fact, a 2011 study from Ohio State University, found that felines may throw-up hairballs when their daily routine is disrupted. So, suddenly, you change something in the home environment, you may find that your kitty starts to act sick, when that is not the case at all. Be aware of this issue when it comes to tackling the problem!

Signs and symptoms

Most of the time, if your cat gets just the odd hairball, it’s fine. On the other hand, if this happens on a seriously regular basis, it could indicate that your kitty has a medical issue. If you’re worried that your kitty has more than a hairball issue, there are some signs that you may want to look out for. Here are some of the illness signs and symptoms that you should keep your eye on:

  • Daily vomitting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Change in mood
  • Isolation
  • Excessive mucus
  • Diarrhea

If you happen to notice that your cat has any of the above signs, you may want to take them to the vets sooner rather than later. It’s probably nothing, but it’s worth getting your pet checked out by a professional. Of course, if you do find that your cat has some kind of condition, the vet will be able to tell you what steps you ought to take next. Simple!

How to cure the hairball problem

While most cats get hairballs now and then, you may well want to prevent them. (For one thing, they are no fun to have to clean up and your cat doesn’t like them much either.) There are a few home remedies that you may find help you to get rid of the problem once and for all. Try some of these out on your kitty and you may just find that the hairballs go away for good:

  • Groom your cat well

Since this issue comes from your cat grooming themselves, maybe you should get their first. Brush your cat on a regular basis and make sure that you wipe away excess hairs with baby wipes. Doing so will mean that there are few hairs for your pet to ingest.

  • Add olive oil to their food

Lubricating your cat’s digestive tract will mean that the hairs just slide away. One of the best things you can do is add a little olive oil to their regular food. That ought to do the job in no time at all!

  • Change your cat’s food

Of course, you want to get the healthiest cat food on the market, but what if that’s the problem? There are some brands out there that promote an ‘anti-hairball ingredient’. It may be worth checking one of them out to solve the problem. Genius!

So, what do you think? With any luck, we’ve now answered the question ‘what is a cat hairball’ here. What’s more, we’ve given you a load of tricks and tips to boot! As you can see, there are many ways in which you can treat cat hairballs. Remember, your cat’s health relies on you so you need to do all you can to protect them. Good luck, cat lovers!

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