Hairballs in Cats: What to watch for - The Trupanion Blog
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Hairballs in Cats: What to watch for

Hairballs in cats - learn what to watch for.

If you have a feline friend in your home, chances are, your cat has had a hairball. Hairballs in cats can sometimes be normal, but when do they become a medical concern for your furry friend? Obviously, cat grooming is a necessary task that can help provide health and wellness factors to your best friend. We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde, to discuss what to watch for with hairballs in cats and best practices for prevention in the future.

Hairballs in cats: an essential guide for pet owners

How do cats get hairballs?

Cats are going to get hairballs, but how do they get them? Dr. Wilde weighs in on the origin of cat hairballs –

“Cats get hairballs from swallowing hair when they groom themselves. Their tongues have barbs that catch the hair and then swallow it. The hair generally passes through the GI tract without incident, however, if there is excess hair due to over-grooming, or in long-haired cats, this hair can clump to itself and form a ball in the GI tract.”

Signs of hairballs in cats

If your cat has hairballs, you might see remnants of the hairballs around your house. Also, there are other signs your feline friend might have hairballs, consider the following:

Of course, if you have any cause for concern, seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian can do additional diagnostics and start an appropriate treatment plan.

When do hairballs become a concern?

Hairballs might happen to your feline friend. Don’t worry, it’s a natural reaction to your cat’s grooming regimen. But when are hairballs something more than serious? Dr. Wilde weighs in on medical concerns with hairballs –

“Hairballs can become a concern if there is a medical cause for the hair not passing normally, like dehydration secondary to kidney disease, or intestinal disorders. Also, over-grooming due to anxiety can cause abnormal hairball formation. In severe cases, hairballs can actually cause obstruction, requiring surgical or endoscopic removal.”

If your cat gets hairballs, you should let your veterinarian know so that they can determine whether there is cause for concern, and perform appropriate diagnostics like bloodwork, x-rays, or other medical treatment.

How to treat hairballs in cats

There are a few options you can take to correct any medical issues connected to hairballs. Consider the following on how to help a cat pass a hairball:

  • Higher fiber foods
  • Laxatives
  • Supplements

In addition, “the veterinarian can advise the best strategy for each individual cat, as cats can have very diverse nutritional needs,” says Wilde. By keeping your veterinarian up-to-date with your cat’s progress, they can plan accordingly with a treatment plan.

Hairball prevention: tips for a happy cat

Proper grooming can play a role in hairball prevention. Naturally, your cat grooms themselves, but these essential tips can help them prevent hairballs. Try out these tips:

  • Brushing your cat daily
  • Trimming the cat’s fur
  • Veterinarian recommendations on hairball formula/prescription food  

Hairballs in cats: easily treatable for our feline friends

Hairballs in cats can be prevented. With a proper grooming regimen, treatment plan, and the expertise and guidance of your veterinarian, your feline friend can by back to itself in no time.  

For more on cat behavior and cat, read Why Do Cats Purr?


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