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For first time cat owners, watching our cats retch and gag before spewing out a hairball may be an alarming and unpleasant sight. While we can assure that it is normal for cats to occasionally hack out a hairball, read on if you wish to find out why cats do so, what are the possible health concerns, and how you can go about reducing the occurrence of hairballs!
Why does it occur?
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As self-groomers, cats rely on their tongue to clean themselves and remove shedded fur, which ends up being swallowed and ingested. While it may be normal for them to expel hair through their stool, an excessive amount of hair that gathers into a hairball may not be able to pass through their digestive system, which is why it is regurgitated and expelled through their mouth instead.
When does it become a health concern?
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Given that spewing out hairballs is a natural process that all cats go through, the act of not doing so is an indicator that your cat may be suffering from an internal blockage in their system. Symptoms such as dry coughing or hacking without the eventual appearance of a hairball, a lack of appetite, constipation, or tiredness may point to the possibility of hairballs being lodged in their system. In such cases, it is advisable to bring your pet to the vet for a thorough checkup.
On the other hand, cats who are barfing out an excessive amount of hairballs frequently are also a cause for concern as it may point to a problem of overgrooming. This may be an indication of a skin condition or a behavioural problem, so likewise, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice such behaviour.
How to minimise hairballs?
While the process of spewing out hairballs occasionally is natural, there are ways to go about reducing its frequency. Grooming your cats more frequently is an effective way to help them reduce the amount of hair ingested. This is especially helpful for long-haired cats, who are likely to regurgitate more often as compared to shorter-haired cats.
In addition, you may also want to consider incorporating “hairball formula” cat food into their diets, which are specially formulated to contain high-fibre ingredients that can help to reduce the shedding of their coats and promote a healthy digestive system.
All in all, the occasional occurrence of a hairball from your cat is not an alarming matter. However, in the event that your pet is unable to hack out any or has been spewing out hairballs too frequently, it is important to be on high alert and consult your veterinarian as soon as possible!