All cat owners have experienced their cat's "gift" – the hairball. The last Friday in April is "National Hairball Awareness Day" and is an important day to recognize. I am not sure of the origin of this "special day", but I have found references to it beginning around 2011.
Hair balls are not just an annoying habit, but can be a sign of illness in your cat. Vomiting, whether it is a hair ball, food, or liquid or foam is serious!
Origin of the Hairball
Cats spend about 25% of their waking hours grooming. Most of the fur safely passes through the intestinal tract. However, hair can build up in the stomach (hairball) which causes irritation to the stomach and/or esophagus. All cats are susceptible to hairballs, although long-haired cats and compulsive groomers are especially prone to hairballs. Some chronic GI diseases cause hairballs and vomiting (such as: food intolerance or allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, and lymphoma).
When to Worry
Visit your veterinarian if:
- Hairballs or vomiting occurs more than twice a month.
- It becomes more frequent
- Loss of weight
Hairball "diets" and Hairball Preventatives
Pet stores and grocery stores carry "hairball diets" and usually these foods are high in soluble fiber, producing a softer stool to help carry hair through the GI tract. Hairball preventatives are usually lubricants or stool softeners. However, these diets and hairball preventatives are NOT meant for long-term use and may be a Band-Aid for a serious underlying illness. Before using any of these products, please visit your veterinarian to make sure your cat does not have some digestive disease.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I do not believe the hairball diets are healthy and would never feed any of my cats any of these types of food. Just look at the ingredients to know why I would never feed them! Horrible! If I had a cat that had chronic hairballs, I would give it a bit of Vasoline once a day for a few days to see if that solved the problem.
Let's honor National Hairball Awareness Day by making sure your beloved cat stays healthy and happy by getting to the root of their hairball issue.
For more information on cats and hairballs visit:
The Danger of Hairballs, Cornell Feline Health Center