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.
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.
- Photo credits: Flickr Users from left: Taekwonweirdo, Malingering and John Bullas