Cats and hairballs are a given and they can be scary. They can have some pretty rough consequences such as intestinal blockages, which can be a serious health problem for your cat. The upside of it is you probably have a cat that likes to be clean. Very clean for the most part because they keep grooming themselves.
What happens is as your cat licks himself or herself clean the tiny hook like structures on their tongue catch all the dead and loose hair and they swallow it. Usually most of the hair goes right through the digestive tract. Some of the hair will stay in the stomach and it can form what we call a hairball.
You would think this nice little ball of fur would come out in a round form, but no, that's not the way it goes down ... or up I should say. The cat will eventually vomit the hairball to get rid of it. Because hairballs pass through the narrow esophagus on the way out, they often appear thin and tubelike, rather than round.
When your cat was a kitten you most likely weren't dealing with hairball issues and that's because as a cat grows older it becomes more adept at grooming itself.
Not a pleasant sound
When you hear your cat in the middle of a hairball episode it can be tempting to perform the Heimlich maneuver on them. It's a discomforting sound. But like a person that chokes, once they finally get it up it's all over except for the cleaning-up part that you get to do.
If you notice the following hairball symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian, as they could indicate that a hairball has caused a potentially life-threatening blockage:
- Ongoing vomiting, gagging, retching, or hacking without producing a hairball;
- Lack of appetite;
- Constipation; or
You can't really stop hairball episodes from happening but you can do some things in order to keep them manageable.
Do your part in grooming so your cat doesn't feel the need to do as much. Combing or brushing your cat on a daily basis is an easy and effective way to minimize hairballs.