If your cat frequently coughs up hairballs, you probably consider it to be a gross nuisance. However, these hairballs could actually be a warning sign that your cat’s life is at risk. This guide will explain why hairballs should never be considered a minor problem, how your cat may be suffering and what you can do to help.
Hairballs Are A Symptom
Your cat coughs up hairballs as a defense mechanism to protect their body from serious damage. This is a similar mechanism to when people or animals throw up in response to consuming toxins or while suffering from food poisoning: if the substance can’t be digested, it’s thrown up instead to prevent damaging the body.
Cats frequently consume hair while grooming themselves, but hair doesn’t break down in the digestive system. When your cat consumes large quantities over a long period of time, it can form clumps in their digestive tract, potentially blocking it. This prevents other substances like digested food from moving through the digestive tract.
When Left Untreated
If left untreated, a blockage in the digestive tract or intestines can cause many other effects, such as a lack of appetite, frequent vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. As time goes by, if the blockage can’t be regurgitated, it will only become more compacted as more indigestible hair is added to it.
In addition, coughing up hairballs can be dangerous to your cat. Dense clumps of hair can potentially get stuck in their throat, choking them.
What You Can Do
These ailments are a terrible thing for your cat to suffer through but can be corrected or avoided fairly easily. If your cat is showing any signs of intestinal obstruction, see a veterinarian immediately. Otherwise, follow these steps to reduce or eliminate hairballs and lower your cat’s risk of intestinal obstruction:
- Groom Your Pets – The easiest step to avoid hairballs is to reduce the amount of hair your cat consumes. Groom your cat regularly for 5-10 minutes per grooming session to remove hair that’s ready to fall out. Don’t just stop with your cat: if you have other cats or dogs your hairball-prone cat is friendly with, groom them too. Your cat may be consuming their hair in addition to their own.
- Vacuum Regularly – Hair from pets and humans alike can get stuck in carpets, rugs and on furniture. Your cat may be consuming some of this hair.
- Supply Anti-Hairball Foods & Treats – Many companies are now marketing cat food and treats that are designed to reduce the number of hairballs your cat has by raising their fiber consumption. The fiber helps to encapsulate hair and allows it to pass through the intestinal tract and out of your cat when they use the litter box.
Hairballs should be taken just as seriously as any other kind of vomiting: it means something is wrong, and your cat needs your help. A little maintenance now can prevent gross hairballs and can keep your cat from becoming critically ill. For more information, contact Metzger Animal Hospital or a similar location.