Are Hairballs A Normal Part Of Having A Cat?

Cats and hairballs are often viewed as a joke or gag in the media, with hairballs showing up in a wide variety of comical stories. However, while most cats will experience a hairball in their lifetime, that doesn't mean that it's a laughing matter. Cats shouldn't regularly experience hairballs, and if your cat does, you should seek medical help from a vet as soon as possible. Read on to learn why hairballs can be so dangerous for cats.

Why Hairballs Form

Hairballs are simply an accumulation of hair that's been consumed by a cat. When the hair migrates into the intestines, it can become compressed, turning into a ball or cylinder shape. When there's too much hair, the cat's body reacts by sending internal muscles and the intestines into convulsions, vomiting the hairball back up. This is an emergency measure that's designed to prevent serious problems from occurring, but that doesn't mean you should simply let your cat keep having hairballs without concern.

The Danger of Hairballs

Hairballs are, by nature, a compressed pile of hair that's turned into a blockage in the intestines. If a hairball successfully comes up, that blockage is removed and your cat's body can return to digesting food normally, until the next one forms. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work this way.

In some cases, hairballs will break apart when a cat vomits them, allowing the hair to continue forming a blockage. In other cases, the hair simply won't come up properly, and a cat can choke on the hair as it gets stuck in their esophagus.

In either case, hair in the body isn't a good thing. A blockage anywhere in the digestive tract can cause your cat to be unable to digest its food properly or to pass excrement. This can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation that requires medical care.

What To Do About It

If your cat is regularly having hairballs, you should see a vet at an animal hospital like Miramonte Veterinary Hospital right away. This could indicate that your cat already has a blockage and its body is trying to cope with it. Your vet can scan the intestines via ultrasound to determine if there's a blockage. If there is, surgery to remove it may be required.

Once the blockage is removed, it's up to you to make sure that your cat doesn't experience more hairballs. Thankfully, this isn't too hard to accomplish with proper care. Simply grooming your cat regularly to remove excess hair and feeding your cat hairball treats to help small amounts of hair to pass harmlessly through the intestinal tract can do the trick in most cases.

Hairballs are no joke and should never be viewed as such. If your cat is having hairballs on a regular basis, talk to a veterinarian for help right away.