Do Hairballs Make Cats Sick?

April 30 is National Hairball Awareness Day! Hairballs are a normal part of cat life, but there are instances in which they can be dangerous. So what exactly are hairballs and why is hairball awareness important? We have some information for current and potential cat owners.

What Are Hairballs?

Hairballs are literally balls of hair that accumulate in a cat's stomach when they are grooming themselves. Cat tongues have small backward slanted projections called papillae that push their hair into their throats and eventually, the hair ends up in the stomach. Despite the name, hairballs aren't round and tend to be cylindrical. Hairballs, including the hair, saliva, and bile are eventually vomited out by the cat.

Symptoms of Hairballs

Cats producing hairballs is normal, but there can be dangers associated with it as well. Hairballs can create a blockage in your cat's intestines and that can cause illness. If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, contact us.

  • Gagging or repeated vomiting without producing a hairball. This can mean that the hairball is lodged in the intestine, creating an obstruction.
  • Constipation is another indication of a blockage. If you notice your cat not being able to have a bowel movement, contact us.
  • Diarrhea can also be a sign of obstruction as your cat’s body tries to push it out. This type of diarrhea will typically come on fast.
  • Lack of energy can be a sign your cat is sick. If your cat is sleeping more or just doesn’t seem to have the energy it usually does, you should contact us for an exam.

Preventing Hairballs

While hairballs are normal, in some cats—especially long-haired cats such as Persians or Maine Coons—there are steps you can take to help reduce them.

It might be necessary to feed them food that helps them digest and pass hairballs more easily. There are cat food brands that specifically are formulated for hairball reduction.

Brush your cat regularly to reduce the volume of hair they need to groom. Some cats may not like to be brushed, so the ASPCA recommends you start out slow.

If your cat seems to be excessively grooming, do what you can to reduce this behavior. When cats are stressed, or bored, grooming may become a default self-comforting habit. You might consider extra cuddles or playtime with your cat or if the problem persists, talk to your vet about sprays that can help.

Cimarron Animal Hospital Can Help

When your cat show signs of being sick, it’s important to get them care right away to make sure the illness isn’t anything serious. Contact us for regular examinations for your cat and if you have questions or concerns.

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