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Understanding Fluffy's Hairballs
August 1, 2020

You’ve probably seen your feline friend cough up a hairball during her day. It’s part of life when you own a cat! But have you ever wondered why hairballs happen in the first place? And more importantly, do they pose any threat to your cat? Learn more below from a Fort Bragg, NC veterinarian. 


What Are Hairballs, Anyway?

Hairballs are just what they sound like—clumps of hair that your cat regurgitates, usually along with a bit of stomach fluid. When Fluffy grooms herself, her barb-lined tongue picks up a lot of loose hair from the coat, which she swallows. Most of that swallowed hair moves through the digestive tract and gets expelled in the fecal matter, but some stays in the gut. Over time, it forms into a hairball which your cat will regurgitate eventually. 


Note that contrary to their name, hairballs are usually more tube-shaped than round. That’s because they’ve just passed through your cat’s narrow esophagus. 


Are Hairballs Harmful to My Cat?

No. The occasional hairball is something that most cats experience, and it’s a normal part of life. If your cat coughs up a hairball every now and then, you needn’t be worried, unpleasant as it may be. 


If your cat is coughing up hairballs frequently, something might be causing your pet to shed more hair than usual. Let your vet know. And take note that vomiting is not the same thing as coughing up a hairball—any cat that is vomiting regularly should be seen by their veterinarian right away. Furthermore, if you see your cat retching like she’s about to cough up a hairball, but nothing comes out, call your vet immediately. Your pet might be choking on a foregin object, and you’ll want to have her examined right away. 


Can I Help My Cat Experience Fewer Hairballs? 

There are a few things you can do as a cat owner to help your pet experience fewer hairballs. First, feed her a high-quality diet that has the right nutritional content for her age and breed. (Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.) When your cat receives good nutrition, the skin and hair follicles stay healthy, resulting in less shedding and therefore less hair swallowed. You should also brush your cat regularly. Not only does this help Fluffy look her best, it traps loose hair in the brush itself. 


For more insight, call your Fort Bragg, NC animal hospital. 

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