Why does my cat have hairballs? Our guide to reducing them.

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If you’ve ever witnessed your cat trying to get a hairball out, it’s alarming, upsetting and quite frankly, off-putting but – it’s nature’s way of getting rid of nasty indigestible loose hair.

Because of your cat’s rough tongue, they remove fur as part of their daily cleaning routines and it makes its way down their throat and into their stomach. Some of the hair is passed out through their digestive system and comes out naturally, however some remains and forms into larger wet clumps in the stomach – the aptly named “hairball”.

Why do cats have hairballs and is it all cats?

You may not have seen any hairballs if you have a younger cat or kitten as they’re not as experienced at grooming. It may only start to happen as they become more proficient at cleaning.

Some cats are fastidious groomers and if you have a long-haired cat, it’s obvious that they are going to be more likely to have hairballs than their shorter haired cousins.

Breeds such as Persians and Maine Coons have significantly higher likelihood of hairballs, although all cats may suffer from them during moulting season when their hair starts to naturally shed.

How often are hairballs formed?

It depends on the cat, the length of its hair, the amount of grooming etc. It’s a natural process and whilst some rarely seem to have one, it’s not uncommon for some cats to “upchuck” once every week or two. If however at the same time your cat becomes lethargic or refuses to eat for more than a day or so, or has repeated unsuccessful incidents of hacking, it may have nothing to do with hairballs, in which case get to the vets for a check up for other more serious ailments.

How can you reduce hairballs in your cat?

  • Establish a regular brushing and/or combing routine to capture more of the loose hair in the brush rather then your cat ingesting it. If you have a long-haired cat which is reluctant to being brushed, take them to a professional groomer about once every six months.
  • Feed your cat specialist “hairball” food  – it provides more fibre to help their hair pass naturally through their digestive system
  • Give your cat a specific hairball remedy – usually a mild laxative to help the passing of hair naturally
  • Distract cats from excessive grooming – if you believe your cat is a compulsive groomer, distract it with toys and fun activities

This combination will certainly see a reduction in hairball occurrences and if in doubt at frequent retching events, do run it past your vet for peace of mind.