By Roslyn Ayers, PetSafe Web Content Specialist
Every cat owner knows the warning sound of the Hairball Hack: hack, gulp, hack, gulp, hack– ker-pluh. Cats keep clean by licking themselves, ingesting some fur in the process. While most of the fur is digested easily, sometimes cats get rid of it by vomiting it up in the form of hairballs. But how often do cats really get hairballs and are hairballs really a big deal?
Cats with longer fur tend to get hairballs more frequently. To help prevent hairballs for long-haired cats, you should brush your cat a few times a week and wipe your cat with a clean cloth afterwards. Keep in mind that every cat is different. Living with 3 Persians, I thought I would be brushing them and cleaning up hairballs all the time. Yet I rarely find those hairy little presents lying around the house. I clean up only a few hairballs per year.
Short-haired cats aren’t immune to getting hairballs. Cats who groom themselves more often may have more hairballs. Hairballs can also be seasonal. Some cats shed some of their furry coat in the summer, and more grooming plus more hair can lead to more hairballs. Talk to your vet if you notice your cat grooms the genital area obsessively as this can be a sign of a UTI.
Some cats are just more prone to hacking up hairballs than others. They might have more sensitive stomachs, or they might shed more often. Some cats throw up hairballs once a week, once a year, or almost never. Only you will know what is normal for your pet. You should speak to your vet if your cat throws up more than one or two times a month, or if your cat is throwing up more often than usual. Lots of hairballs or vomiting can also be signs of inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.
Are hairballs dangerous? Yes, but rarely. Hairballs can cause blockage of the cat’s stomach or throat, which may require surgery to correct. A few years ago, my friend’s short-haired cat Velvet stopped eating and using the litterbox for 3 days. After taking her to the vet, they discovered Velvet had such a large hairball in her tummy that it was blocking her intestines. Luckily, Velvet was fine after getting some medication and a laxative. She now gets hairball prevention formula dry food. Hairballs can lead to serious medical problems if you don’t know what to watch out for.
If you’re worried about your cat’s hairball problem, don’t be! Occasional hairballs are normal. You can easily prevent hairballs by brushing your cat more often and talking to your vet about hairball prevention food or supplements.
How often does your cat get hairballs? Do you have a special hairball remedy that works for your cat?
At PetSafe’s Knoxville headquarters, Roslyn Ayers is the Web Content Specialist. Roslyn comes from a family of animal lovers and has a B.A. in Writing/Communications from Maryville College. She has volunteered with various animal rescues in Tennessee and South Carolina. Roslyn currently shares her home with four cats.