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Hairballs in Cats

Hairballs, such a nuisance, right? What causes our cats to have hairballs?

Typically in a healthy kitty the hair that’s ingested makes its way through the stomach and intestine and comes out in the feces. So, if this is not happening you should look deeper into why the hair is being vomited. One of the most common misconceptions is that hairballs are from grooming. This is not necessarily true. Cats need to groom to keep clean, removing old hair and dirt, hence the barbed tongue. Longer haired cats may need some assistance to cut down on the fur that has been consumed, so brushing regularly is an excellent way to help with that. Over-grooming can certainly be a main factor in hairballs, along with fleas, skin disease and even dietary intolerance. Cats that over groom tend to be anxious or stressed, but it can also be related to an area of the body that is painful. Regular grooming makes the painful area feel better. Examples might be the urinary tract, muscle or abdominal pain.

IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is another cause of hairballs due to the damaged tissue in the stomach and intestine. The digestive enzymes and lubricant are not produced normally which prevents mobility. Unfortunately, GI cancer can have similar symptoms. When a Veterinarian is faced with a kitty with hairballs, there are a few considerations to be made because of all the potential things that might be causing them. These include intestinal motility problems, stress, stereotypical behaviours, skin disease, abdominal issues, urinary tract problems, and musculoskeletal problems. Depending on what they find, there are many rule outs they have to look into as well. Some include arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, bladder stones, kidney stones, boredom, skin parasites, fungal skin diseases, and many more.

Needless to say, hairballs in cats is not an easy diagnosis. Finding and treating the real issue is ideal than just treating the hairball. The kitty and the owners should work to get to the root of the problem so things can get back to normal. With any luck, the veterinarian will diagnose the issue quickly and get the kitty back to their happy and healthy self.

Written by: Holly Murphy, Client Care Representative 

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