Hairballs in Cats

As any cat owner will know, cats are meticulous groomers. Grooming involves licking the coat, and this leads to the ingestion of hair. If hair builds up faster than it can pass through, hairballs form. Most cats fix this problem by vomiting up the hairball. However, this does not always work, and it should not happen excessively. This article summarises everything you should know, and provides some tips to minimise hairball production!

What are hairballs?

Hairballs (technical name “trichobezoar”) form when cats lick their coat as part of grooming and eat the loose hairs on the surface. Hair is very difficult to digest, so most of the time the hair will pass through the bowels and exit in the cat’s stool. However, if there is a large amount of hair, it can form a clump in the stomach that is too large to pass through, so the cat resorts to vomiting it up. Long-haired cats and very stressed cats that over-groom are particularly prone to hairballs.

How do I know my cat has hairballs?

As mentioned, vomiting is the main sign of hairballs in cats. While you may not see your cat vomiting, you will often hear the retching sound. If you find the hairball, it may have some other material attached to it, such as undigested food. The majority of the time, vomiting up the hairball fixes the problem and your only job as a cat owner is to clean up the mess!

If the hairball is unable to be vomited up, it can cause a blockage in the bowels. The signs of this are different to vomiting – your cat may go off his/her food, become lethargic, become constipated, or dry-retch without producing a hairball.

How can I help prevent them?

  • Adding fibre to your cat’s food in the form of cooked pumpkin
  • Adding wet food to biscuits/kibble
  • Ensuring constant access to fresh/clean water
  • Managing skin allergies (itchiness triggers grooming!)

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Royal Canin Hairball Care in Gravy has been specially formulated for adult cats from 1 to 7 years of age that are prone to hairballs.

When should I be concerned?

Vomiting without production of hairballs can be a sign of a number of diseases. Most commonly in a young cat, this might be inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, obstruction, gastritis or even parasites. In an older cat, the list goes on. If you notice excessive vomiting, or vomiting without hairball production, you should seek veterinary care. Similarly, if your cat seems to be excessively grooming or constantly itchy, you should get him or her checked out, as this might be a sign of underlying skin disease.

So, keep an eye out for any hairballs or vomiting, and try our top tips to help your kitty! Hairballs are not usually anything to worry too much about. However, if your cat brings up hairballs excessively, or if you are concerned at all, then consult your veterinarian.

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