When your cat grooms herself, tiny barbs on her tongue pick up loose hair from the coat, which your cat swallows. Most of that hair will move through Fluffy’s digestive tract, eventually getting expelled in your cat’s feces. Some of that hair, though, stays in the gut, forming a hairball—that hairball will occasionally be regurgitated. You’ll likely see some retching and gagging before your cat expels the hairball itself.
The occasional hairball is a natural part of life for almost any cat—although it may not look pleasant when your cat is regurgitating a hairball, it shouldn’t hurt them in the least. If your cat coughs up the occasional hairball, there’s no need to worry.
With that being said, there are a few warning signs to watch out for when it comes to hairballs. If your cat’s hairball production has become frequent, or if they’ve suddenly started coughing up hairballs in rapid succession, it’s best to have them examined at the vet’s office right away. If your cat is retching but not producing an actual hairball, it may mean that the hairball is blocking your cat’s windpipe—this is a medical emergency and should be dealt with immediately.
If you would like to try and reduce the amount of hairballs that your cat expels, there are a few steps you can take. The first is perhaps the simplest and most effective: brush your cat on a daily basis. This traps loose fur in the brush itself, preventing your cat from swallowing it in the first place. Another way to help minimize hairballs is by feeding your cat a specialized food, formulated to help reduce shedding and help hair flow through the digestive tract smoothly. This may be a helpful choice for cats with high hairball production—ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
Want to know more about your cat and hairballs? Does your feline friend need a veterinary checkup? We’re here to help! Schedule an appointment with your Fort Collins, CO vet clinic.
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