All About Hairballs

image of a white cat.

Does your favorite feline leave you hairballs as gifts? If so, you’re not alone. Although we love cats for being meticulous groomers, it’s safe to say we don’t like finding hairy presents around the house. Let’s explore what causes hairballs and how to prevent them.

What Causes a Hairball?

Hairballs are clusters of fur, or hair, that your cat unintentionally swallows while grooming himself or herself. When enough hair is ingested and collects in your cat’s digestive tract, it forms a “hairball.” Cats that have long hair, shed excessively or constantly groom themselves are prone to developing hairballs.

Is It Harmful to My Cat’s Health?

Most hairballs are harmlessly coughed up by your cat and do not pose a threat to his or her health. Hairballs are usually passed in vomit or through fecal matter. However, frequent hairballs could be a symptom of abnormal gastrointestinal motility, inflamed intestinal tissue or cancer.

Please contact your veterinarian for an examination if your cat:

  • Continues gagging for more than one day
  • Seems constipated
  • Suffers from chronic diarrhea

Ways to Prevent Hairballs

You can decrease the amount of fur that your cat ingests while grooming himself or herself by brushing your cat regularly. This should help prevent the formation of hairballs. If your cat has long hair, it’s recommended that you brush him or her daily. (In some cases, cats with long hair who are not brushed often enough can suffer from extremely matted hair, which can be difficult to manage. Once the hair is matted, it is often too difficult to brush and may require shaving.)

You can decrease the amount of fur that your cat ingests while grooming himself or herself by brushing your cat regularly. This should help prevent the formation of hairballs. If your cat has long hair, it’s recommended that you brush him or her daily. (In some cases, cats with long hair who are not brushed often enough can suffer from extremely matted hair, which can be difficult to manage. Once the hair is matted, it is often too difficult to brush and may require shaving.)

There are dietary options for your cat that may help decrease the risk of hairballs as well. Many brands of commercial cat food now include formulas to help reduce hairballs while improving the health of cats’ coat and skin. Feeding your cat these types of products may also decrease shedding and increase your cat’s fiber intake. If you do not wish to change your cat’s diet, you can opt for a hairball remedy or lubricant to help your cat pass hairballs through the digestive tract.

Another simple, and fun, solution is to purchase your cat a new toy. This will redirect your cat’s attention from grooming to playing with the new toy — and provide an opportunity to enjoy some quality time with your pet.

If your cat suffers from frequent hairballs, contact your veterinarian to discuss possible treatment options, including changing your cat’s diet.

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Minocqua Office Hours

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8:00 am-5:00 pm

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8:00 am-12:00 pm

Sunday:

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8:00 am-5:00 pm

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8:00 am-5:00 pm

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Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

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8:00 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Wednesday:

Closed

Thursday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-4:00 pm

Saturday:

8:00 am-12:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

  • "Even though we are not always happy to see them, the Drs and staff at NAH are the best!! They keep us healthy so that we can enjoy life to its fullest. We can't wait for the ice to thaw so that we can again pontoon on the Turtle Falmbeau Flowage and romp in the water."
    Tango & Tess
  • "Thankyou Northwoods Animal Hospital especially Dr. Hayman and Julie the vet technician, I can't say I enjoyed every visit but I will miss my spot under the desk and all those people feeling sorry for me (got lots of bellie rubs!!!!!) I'm happpy again now, can't really figure out why, maybe I'm missing something, OH well. Thankyou for caring so much about me and for making me happy again... Oh and I'm really glad I got my appetite back, I was worried about myself for a while there. Love carmalitta"
    Carmel Iltis
  • "Thank you to Dr. Hayman and staff for their continued help and dediction to our shelter pets. From appts on very short notice and discounts for our needy rescued dogs they stand ready to provide great care with compassion, experience and knowledge. They make these unwanted pups feel as important and loved as those currently in homes and that alone makes them wonderful if not for all the other reasons. Again... Thank You"
    Price Animal Welfare Shelter