Do you own a cat? If so, finding the occasional hairball is probably going to be a part of life. Hairballs aren’t exactly pleasant, and they definitely don’t look like fun for our feline friends. But why do hairballs occur at all, and do they present any dangers to your cat? Learn more here as your Mesa, AZ veterinarian tells you everything you need to know. 

Why Do Hairballs Happen, Anyway?

Hairballs are a natural occurrence that just about all cats experience (minus hairless cats, of course). When your pet grooms herself, barbs lining the tongue pick up much of the loose hair around your cat’s coat. That fur gets swallowed, and most of it moves through the digestive tract just like food and is eventually expelled in the fecal matter. 

Some hair remains behind in the gut, though. That clumps together over time to form a hairball, which gets regurgitated eventually. Hairballs are usually tube-shaped, contrary to their name, since they’ve just come out of the narrow esophageal tube, and your cat’s hairball will probably be accompanied by a small amount of stomach fluid.

Can Hairballs Harm Fluffy? 

The occasional hairball is a normal part of life and doesn’t hurt your cat. If hairballs become frequent, though, something could be causing your pet to shed more than usual and produce more hairballs as a result. And it’s important to realize that vomiting is not the same thing as coughing up a hairball—let your vet know if your cat is vomiting consistently.

While rare, it’s possible for a cat to choke on her own hairball. If you notice your cat gagging and retching without producing a hairball, take her to the emergency room. She could be choking on the hairball, or on some other foreign object that she’s attempted to ingest. 

Are There Ways for Me to Help My Cat Have Fewer Hairballs?

Yes, you can help your cat experience fewer hairballs. Feed Fluffy a high-quality diet; when your pet gets proper nutrition, the skin and hair stays healthy and shedding is reduced. It’s also important to brush your cat regularly. Although your pet is a great self-groomer, brushing her yourself traps a lot of fur in the brush and prevents her from swallowing it, thereby reducing hairball production. 

Does your cat need veterinary care? That’s where we come in. Contact your Mesa, AZ animal hospital to make an appointment.