Hairballs in cats have several misconceptions with the largest being that although they are a nuisance, they are not actually dangerous to your cat.
There could be nothing further from the truth as they can not only be dangerous, they can threaten the life of your cat.
The first time that you witness this event, it can be quite unnerving as your cat will arch their back and try to cough up this potentially dangerous wad of hair that has built up in their stomach or small intestines.
They finally vomit up this object, it will not only be disgusting, but put your cat in a lot of distress.
In the majority of cases, although it looks like your cat is in a lot of pain, it is not anywhere near that serious.
However, what any cat owner should understand is that this object has just been expelled for a reason. It is a natural defensive act by your cats system to prevent blockage in their stomach.
It is not regurgitated and the natural defense system does not work, it will lead to a blockage in either your cat’s stomach or their small intestine.
If this does occur, it has now become a life threatening situation for your cat. If it is not treated or surgically removed, it could take their life.
To better understand how serious a treat this can actually be, there have been several reported cases where hairballs that have been removed have been as large as a baseball.
There is no physical way your cat can cough or vomit this size of an object.
Hairballs in cats are considered to be one of the leading causes of vomiting.
The first symptom that you will see that your cat may have a hairball is a very sudden hacking or gagging sound.
Once this occurs, you will see your cat begin to arch their back in an attempt to vomit up this dangerous obstruction. In most cases this will be successful, but in some cases it may not be.
If this is the case, the next set of symptoms or signs will be your cat continuing the retching and gagging several times but with no success.
By now, your cat will be showing other symptoms as well as they will not be able to defecate properly and will in most cases develop diarrhea as a result.
They will also completely lose their appetite and their abdomen will start to swell. If you see any of these symptoms, it has now become an emergency.
While hairballs in cats are considered a normal occurrence, large numbers of hairballs are not normal.
It has been estimated that over 25 percent of all impactions in the digestive tract of cats are caused by hairballs.
Your cat spends several hours a day licking and grooming, and as a result they will swallow some of their own hair. As your cat licks their fur, the dead hair will become loose.
Your cats tongue is made up of a very rough surface and is constructed of what is called backward slanting papillae.
Papillae are very small round or cone shaped protuberances that are on the top of your cats tongue and contain their taste buds.
But because of their backward slanting, some of the hair cannot be dislodged from their tongue.
But this is just the beginning of the problem, as they also cannot spit it off, again because of this backward slant.
Because of this, they have only one option of cleaning this dead hair from their tongue; they swallow it.
Under normal circumstances, this dead hair flows easily through their digestive tract and then is excreted in their feces.
When hairballs in cats do form, there is simply too much hair accumulating and it starts to develop into a mass of waded dead hair.
Long haired cats will naturally have more problems with hairballs but it is important to understand that this can occur in any breed because of the nature of the tongue.
Hairballs in cats have a litany of homemade treatments and remedies, but some of them can actually be very dangerous.
The first form of treatment and prevention is to groom your cat regularly, at least 2 to 3 times per week. The best way to do this is with a Slicker brush instead of a regular brush.
A slicker brush is especially designed to simulate your cat’s rough tongue and because of this it will grab the soft long dead fur much more effectively.
The brushing should be done very slowly and should start from your cats head and then work your way down to their tail.
With this brush, you do not brush in the direction that the fur is falling, but instead, in the opposite direction.
This is why you start at the head and work down from there.
Once this has been completed, wipe your cat down with a wet cloth at least twice.
This will help to capture any of the dead hair that the brushing has missed.
The next method for treating hairballs in cats is with products designed especially for hairballs.
Laxatone and similar products are very effective as they assist in several ways.
They will act as both a laxative as well as a lubricant to help with the passage of hair through your cats system.
There are several flavors that are very pleasing to cats and they come in a paste form or can also be placed on your cats paws.
This is the most effective method, as they will naturally lick it off and when this occurs it goes directly into their digestive system.
Homemade remedies such as butter, oil, or pumpkin are often recommended but there are some dangers as well as potential obstacles with these remedies.
They can in some cases cause other forms of digestive problems, or they may be absorbed by your cats system before they have a chance to work effectively.
High fiber diets, fiber treats, or fiber supplements are also very effective against hairballs in cats as they help to move excessive amounts of the dead hair into the digestive tract.
Once the hair is moved, there is little chance of a blockage which is exactly what you want.
Consulting with your veterinarian on the right fiber diet or supplement is critical, as is using it consistently to prevent any future blockage.
Hairballs in cats can be an extremely dangerous situation for your cat and if it is not treated and ignored, could take their life.
However, preventive measures can be extremely successful and you may never have to watch your cat wrench and vomit up these disgusting and threatening hairballs again.