Any cat owner will tell you their beloved moggy spends many hours grooming herself. All this grooming keeps the cat clean, but it also means loose hairs end up in her stomach. More often than not this hair passes out of the cat in her poo, but when excess amounts of hair build up in the stomach, it sometimes comes back out the way it went in.
That’s when you, as a cat owner, might encounter a hairball.
If you notice your cat is coughing and gagging she will eventually vomit up this sausage-shaped concoction. Some cats get more hairballs than others – long-haired breeds generally get more than their short-haired friends, while in spring, when shedding tends to be worse, you’re more likely to see a hairball or two.
There is usually no need to worry. But if it seems like your cat is producing hairballs with some frequency, it could be a sign that things are not right. Hairballs can cause intestinal blockages and signs of such blockages can include more persistent hacking, wheezing, vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea, lethargy, loss of appetite and a swollen stomach. If you notice these symptoms, get your cat off to the vet.
If you’ve had hairball problems in the past or you want to avoid them in the future, you can help with prevention by regularly grooming your cat to reduce the amount of hair she swallows. Ensuring she has plenty of fibre in the diet will also help the hair pass through her system. The extra fibre should also help improve her skin condition, which in turn reduces the amount of shedding.