In honor of National Hairball Awareness Day, we would like to take this opportunity to talk about what hairballs are, why they form, and how to prevent them. Hairballs are made up of hair, saliva, and dirt that accumulate in a cat’s stomach over time. They can cause problems such as vomiting and constipation and can even be life-threatening in rare cases. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help prevent your cat from forming hairballs. Keep reading for our top tips!

What causes hairballs in cats?

Normal grooming behavior results in your cat swallowing some hair, whether they are short- or long-haired. Occasionally, the hair will wad up in the stomach and turn into a hairball that is then vomited as a long, tubular mass. A monthly hairball, although gross, is generally not cause for concern.

When do hairballs cause problems?

When too much hair remains in the stomach or small intestine, it can cause a serious blockage if your cat cannot vomit it up. Additionally, if your cat continues to gag, retch, or vomit without producing a hairball, they could have another issue going on. Appetite loss, diarrhea, constipation, and lethargy are also signs that your cat may have a hairball blockage. If your cat grooms to the point of causing bald areas and skin irritation, they may have allergies, parasites, or other health conditions that require veterinary treatment.

What should you do about your cat’s hairballs?

If your cat’s hairball production seems excessive, talk to our team about possible solutions. They may include:

  • Hairball diets — Certain cat foods may help prevent or control hairballs. These diets are generally high in fiber to help improve gastrointestinal motility and move hairballs along. 
  • Professional grooming — If your cat is long-haired, they may need more grooming assistance than you can offer at home. Short-haired cats are sometimes difficult to groom, making a professional bath and brushing necessary to remove dead hair.

If your cat appears to be trying to produce a hairball without luck, or if they are grooming excessively, contact our team for help.