Cats and hairballs. There’s no way around it—hairballs in cats are simply unpleasant. What causes them and how can you prevent them? If your cat is getting hairballs, we’re here to help!

April 29 is National Hairball Awareness Day, which helps spread awareness about hairballs and the health of cats. We thought we would do our part by sharing some facts about hairballs. Check them out!

The Hairy Truth: Some Hairball Facts

  • Hairballs in cats are also known as feline trichobezoars or furballs.
  • Although we tend to think of hairballs being shaped like a ball, they are actually long cylindrical masses of hair that form in a cat’s stomach.
  • Hairballs happen more frequently in long-haired cats, like Persians.
  • Although hairballs can be common, frequent hairballs can be a sign of a more serious problem.
  • Hairballs are more frequent when the seasons change because cats tend to shed more.

Causes of Hairballs

Hairballs are a result of your cat’s grooming process. Did you know that your cat’s tongue has small, hook-like structures on it? During the grooming process, your cat’s tongue catches any loose and dead hair, and this hair is swallowed. Most of this hair will pass through the digestive tract, but some of it may stay in the stomach and form into a hairball.

Cats that excessively groom themselves or shed a lot tend to have more frequent hairballs.

Symptoms

Common hairball symptoms include gagging, retching, and hacking. These symptoms are typically followed by your cat regurgitating the hairball.

Sometimes hairballs can cause life-threatening intestinal blockages in cats. If you notice the following symptoms in your cat, you should consult your veterinarian:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Unproductive gagging or retching (without producing a hairball)

Preventing Hairballs in Cats

Looking for ways to prevent hairballs in your furry feline? Although it’s not possible to completely prevent hairballs in cats, there are steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood that your cat will have them. Here are some tips!

  • Brushing your cat regularly will help prevent hairballs. If you’re able to remove some of the loose hair, there will be less hair for your cat to swallow. You can also have your cat professionally groomed.
  • There are a variety of hairball remedies available, including petroleum-based treats and mild laxatives that will help hairballs pass through your cat’s digestive system.
  • There are also commercial diets that are formulated to help reduce hairballs in cats. These specialized, high-fiber formulas are designed to improve skin and coat health, minimize shedding, and encourage hairballs to pass through the digestive tract.
  • Make sure your cat is drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps keep the digestive tract healthy and working effectively.
  • Discouraging excessive grooming can also help prevent hairballs. If your pet is a compulsive groomer, you can try to distract her with a toy and extra playtime to prevent excessive grooming.

We hope these tips are helpful as you try to help minimize hairballs in your furry friend!