Hairballs and Cats!


It is a very hot summer's day and I, Sadie, am feeling very lazy and not very inspired to help my Gram write anything. Gram has already said we have too many dog articles and not enough articles on cats. So being the nice dog that I am, I have gracefully conceded this space to my Gram and her darn cats.

Hairballs and cats go together almost like ice cream and cake, but not with the same result. Ice cream and cake taste great going down, hairballs coming up do not necessarily please the cat.

No matter how often you brush and/or comb your cat, cats are always grooming themselves. These wonderful self-groomers are always swallowing their own hair, no matter how gross it sounds; it is a fact of a cat’s life.

The rough tiny backward-slanted projections (papillae) that are on your cat’s tongue propel the hair down its throat and into its stomach and this creates the hairball.

The name hairball generally brings a picture of a round little fur ball to mind, but hairballs are not always round. They are more often long and slender shaped more like a cigar or a hotdog. They are round in your cat’s tummy, but on the route upward they change their shape while traveling through the cat’s esophagus.

What causes a cat to cough up the disgusting clump in the middle of your bed or on the carpet you just had cleaned?

Unfortunately there is an element in cat hair that is indigestible called keratin, this substance prevents cat hair from dissolving in the stomach. While some of the hair will passes through the cat’s digestive system, some sits in the cat’s stomach and accumulates into a damp ball just waiting to leave.

It is not unusual for a cat to throw up a hairball once every week or two. It is considered nothing to worry about. Other than the inconvenience of cleaning up the mess, it is a normal “cat occurrence.”

However, it can pose a serious problem if it grows too large and cannot pass through the esophagus, through the intestinal tract or if is passes into the small intestine and lodges there. These problems seldom happen and if they do, it is very serious and requires surgical treatment at once.

Symptoms to watch for:

If your cat is acting lethargic, will not eat for a day or two or is trying to throw up and cannot, it is suggested that you take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

It is possible that the unresponsive retching is not associated with a hairball problem. It could be a sign of another gastrointestinal problem or a respiratory problem, both of which require the services of your vet.

A blockage can be diagnosed through a physical examination, x-rays, and blood work. If a blockage is discovered, surgery may be necessary, but in many instances can be handled with the use of laxatives and other clinical care. Laxatives should only be given under your vet’s supervision.

Kittens and young cats are less apt to have hairballs, as they are usually too busy finding things to do, to spend too much time grooming themselves.

Cats as they get older, spend more time doing the grooming process and are more apt to have hairball problems. That is why it is important to brush your cat frequently. Brushing not only helps eliminate some of excess hair and keep it out of your cat’s stomach it helps keep your house free from needless cat hair floating around.

Currently on the market are cat treats that have a hairball preventative in them, that I feed my cats on a daily basis, as a precautionary measure. I have also noticed that some dry food manufacturers have produced several dry foods with a hairball preventative in them.

I have not done any extensive research on the dry food products, but I have found that my own cats seem to be doing quite well with my using the hairball preventative treats.

So far I have not had a hairball in the middle of my bed in a very long time.

With all that said, my Gram and her cats are happy and I am happy that I got to lay in the shade and take a nap. Until next time, I remain

Your Sadie

Drs. Foster and Smith Inc.