If you own a cat, then you are most likely familiar with their slimy hairballs. Depending on your cat’s hair coat length, you may encounter hairballs with such regular frequency that you find yourself asking if they are normal. Our team here at South Shore Veterinary Hospital is going to give you a more in-depth look at how hairballs are formed, how they’re eliminated, and how many are considered normal for your feline friend.
How are hairballs formed?
As cats groom themselves, the tiny hooks on their tongues trap dead or loose fur that they ingest. Whether your cat is long- or short-haired, they will still ingest enough fur to create hairballs. Most of the hair passes easily through the gastrointestinal tract, but some can become clumped in the stomach and, in rare cases, become too bulky to be passed. These uncommon instances require surgical removal.
How does my cat get rid of their hairballs?
In most cases, your cat will vomit up the hairball, which will pass from their stomach to the esophagus, and then flatten out into a thin tube, rather than an actual ball, as it goes through the esophagus. So, no, cats do not cough up hairballs—they vomit them.
How many hairballs should my cat normally produce?
The general consensus is that cats should produce no more than one hairball per week, no matter their coat length. So, if your cat is vomiting hairballs more frequently, retching without any production, or not eating, schedule an appointment with our veterinarian.
How can I reduce hairball development in my cat?
If you’re not a fan of cleaning up slimy fur clumps, you can take steps to reduce the number of hairballs your cat produces. Try the following methods:
- Brushing your cat daily
- Switching to a hairball-control diet
If your feline friend is vomiting too many hairballs, not eating, or vomiting in general, please contact us for help.