April 25 is Hairball Awareness Day: Let’s Unravel the Hairball Mystery

Did you know that today is Hairball Awareness Day? This year, on Friday, April 25, cat lovers around the world will celebrate this annual event.

Hairball awareness day

While some folks may think that setting aside a special day devoted to hairballs (otherwise known more scientifically as trichobezoars) is amusing, there is nothing funny about hairballs. If hairballs cannot be expelled easily either by upchucking them or eliminating them out the other end, these tightly packed clumps of hair actually have the potential for creating a serious health risk to our cats.

Although most of the time the ingested hair passes harmlessly out the other end, if an excessive amount of hair builds up inside the cat’s stomach, cats will generally cough up the offending material. While the feline digestive system is beautifully designed to handle its own hair and the hair of prey animals, if the digestive system becomes overloaded with hair, the intestinal lining becomes irritated.

According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, if a cat ingests a large clump of hair and cannot regurgitate it, an excessive amount of this hair can block the cat’s intestinal tract which can potentially cause an intestinal blockage; an oftentimes life-threatening situation.

While it’s perfectly normal for kitties to occasionally hack up a hairball one to four times a month, if cats vomit repeatedly, this can portend a serious underlying medical condition. Therefore if you observe your kitty vomiting more frequently than what is considered normal, it’s extremely important to make an appointment with your vet as quickly as possible.

Every cat guardian who is attuned to the species will no doubt immediately recognize the sound a cat makes while trying to rid itself of a hairball. This sound can hardly be mistaken for something else; although it may be possible that this hacking sound may also be symptomatic of feline asthma¹ or other respiratory diseases.

All seasoned kitty guardians generally will instantly identify an upchucked trichobezoar and understand how they are made; for folks who may be relatively new in their career as a kitty servant, hairballs are formed as the cat grooms itself thereby ingesting its hair. A cat’s tongue is exceptionally rough making it a wondrous tool for grooming. However, once it’s in their mouth they are unable to spit it out so are forced to swallow the hair.

While these clumps of undigested hair are known as hairballs, they rarely resemble a ball. The majority of hairballs are sausage shaped and can often be mistaken for a piece of stool. As a result folks new to cats may be concerned that their cat may have just had an “accident”.

It is possible to help prevent large clumps of hairs from becoming hairballs through regular grooming, bumping up the amount of fiber in the cat’s diet with additives such as small amounts of benefiber or canned unsweetened pumpkin to their food.

If your cat is having difficulty regurgitating hairballs, your veterinarian can prescribe medications designed to keep the cat’s digestive system working more efficiently.

While some kitty guardians give their cats butter thinking it will help lubricate the digestive system, butter is digestible, therefore it’s ineffective. Prudent use of petroleum based hairball remedy, when necessary can works wonders. Home remedies for cat hairballs.

How do you handle your cat’s hairballs? Tell us in a comment.

Jo


Sources:

  1. felineasthma.org/.
  2. Photo credits: Flickr Users from left: Taekwonweirdo, Malingering and John Bullas
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April 25 is Hairball Awareness Day: Let’s Unravel the Hairball Mystery — 12 Comments

  1. I didn’t know it was hairball awareness day! In one of the articles that I linked to that I wrote a while ago, I started off by saying that I thought that hairballs were a domestic cat phenomenon meaning that the potential problems that they caused did not occur amongst wild cats. That may be true. You never hear of wild cats suffering from health problems due to hairballs.

    Inactivity or a lack of enough activity may be a factor in hairballs being a potential cat health problem.

    My cat, Charlie, had a hairball problem. I believe that the lower part of his colon just before his rectum was being scratched by the hair in the hairballs. His stools were slightly bloody (on the outside). His colon checked out as OK so we (me and the vet) decided it was hairballs and excessive grooming. It has cleared up. He grooms less.

    The vet gave me the lubricant Bezo Pet Paste to lubricate the intestine. I think we might be able to add intestinal scratching as another health hazard from feline hairballs.

  2. Thanks for the excellent educative article on “CAT HAIRBALLS” and initially got to know of “Hairball Awareness Day” from “Conscious Cat” blog.I feed my two traditional Persian cats home made mixture of “Rice+Mince Meat+ Fish” and they relish the food and are healthy.Only defect is with my 7 year old female cat who tends to vomit “Hairballs” at least once quarterly and has the habit of excessive grooming.My 5 year old male cat rarely vomits “hairballs”.

    • Rudolph, do groom your cats with say a Furminator to remove some hair? The American Persian has longer hair. This is because the American cats have been bred to have very long hair, while your Persian cats are more natural with long hair but not excessively long hair. The Americans say that if you have a Persian cat you have to groom him regularly but I don’t think that is necessary for the Persian cat in India.

  3. Some cats are prone to hairballs, our Jozef is, despite being groomed every day he still manages to gather enough to produce a hairball sometimes on my bedside rug. There’s nothing like standing on one and getting it stuck on the bottom of your foot to start your day lol

  4. I give molly hairball paste. She used to always come running for it but she got bored of it now. I read once about a lady who’s cat died from a hairball blocking her throat. It was obviously very sudden and shocking but that really scared me and I am quite paranoid now about hairballs.

    • I think you just dont want to go though with what red went though again which is understandable. Sounds interesting that hairball paste. I guess u can get it at the vets.

  5. If there is ONE hairball in the house without a SINGLE doubt, if I am without shoes on, I will step in it 100% of the time. I think it is a law of the universe. I mean, really, what are the chances? LOL

  6. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with hairballs. I have had 13 cats during my married life (17 years) and can literally count on one hand the number of hairballs we have had. I brush all our kitties regularly. I truly believe that is the best way to control the hairball issue.

    • Sensible Reno. Charlie, my cat, has a bit if a hairball issue. I think it may have gone away. For quite a long time, he used to groom too much. Now he grooms normally and things have calmed down a bit as he does not vomit up her hairballs and he has hair all over his body whereas before he had one or two bald patches due to over-grooming. As mentioned in another comment he also had a bit of blood in his poop, due to the hair in the hairballs scratching his colon.

  7. well a few of mine have have Smokey, Rebel and Some of the short hairs. i never thought of getting hairball paste. Sounds interesting

  8. Thanks for a great article. We see hariball problems sometimes but for the most part we keep ahead of the situation. We have only one longhaired cat but I see hairball problems sometimes with shorthaired cats too. We serve up pumpkin and other remedies and they work well.

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