Hairball problems are not only associated with long hair coats. Shorthaired cats – especially double-coated cats – can also have problems with hairballs.
Hairballs may be disgusting, but they develop as a result of your cat’s healthy and fastidious grooming routine. It can be disturbing to watch (and hear) your cat eliminating a hairball. Some common hairball symptoms include hacking, gagging, and retching. Usually, your cat will then vomit the hairball in relatively short order.
When your cat grooms himself, tiny hook-like structures on his tongue catch loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of this hair passes all the way through the digestive tract with no problems. But if some hair stays in the stomach, it can form a hairball. Ultimately, your cat will vomit the hairball to get rid of it. Because hairballs pass through the narrow esophagus on the way out, they often appear thin and tubelike, rather than round.
If you notice the following hairball symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian, as they could indicate that a hairball has caused a potentially life-threatening blockage:
- Ongoing vomiting, gagging, retching, or hacking without producing a hairball
- Lack of appetite
Nothing can be done to totally prevent hairballs in cats, but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood your cat will have hairballs or reduce their frequency.
Groom your cat regularly. The more fur you remove from your cat, the less fur that will end up as fodder for hairballs in her stomach. Combing or brushing your cat on a daily basis can be an effective way to minimize hairballs, and it can also provide a fun way for you to bond with your cat.
Give your cat a specialized “hairball formula” cat food . Many pet food manufacturers now make hairball-reduction cat foods. These high-fiber formulas are designed to improve the health of your cat’s coat, minimize the amount of shedding, and encourage hairballs in cats to pass through the digestive system.
Use a hairball product or laxative. There are a number of different hairball products on the market today, most of which are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass through the digestive tract.
Discourage excessive grooming. If you suspect that your cat’s hairballs are a result of compulsive grooming, try to train your cat to do another enjoyable activity instead of licking his coat. This might include teaching him to play with a new toy on his own or finding a fun toy you can play with together.