Awareness on Hairballs

Most cat owners are aware of hairballs – tubular wads of hair vomited up.  They are considered by and large a normal part of feline existence.  Owners and veterinarians alike have become complacent to these slimy grey-brown emissions wipe it up and get on with your day, no big deal.

Not so fast – it could be a big deal or the beginning of one. When one observes domestic and wild felines, hairballs seem to be a uniquely domestic cat issue, despite very similar anatomy and grooming habits.  So why should we continue to ignore them when they occur every few weeks or months. The answer is we shouldn’t.

It is normal for a small amount of hair to be ingested on a daily basis for all cats via grooming. This will typically mix with the food and be discharged along with the stool, without issue.  If excessive amounts of hair are swallowed or there are illnesses affecting the motility of the bowel, then problems can arise. Increased intake of hair can result from over-grooming related to stress or pain, skin disease or obsessive compulsive type behaviours.  Gastrointestinal motility problems can arise from a number of diseases including pancreatitis, liver disease, inflammatory bowel, dietary intolerance and bowel cancer to name a few.

The take home message is simple. Vomiting hairballs should not be shrugged off as normal for cats and therefore ignored. Consider at the very least talking to one of our Clappison veterinarians or support staff about potential causes for hairballs. In some cases an examination and bloodwork may be needed to rule in or out a few things, before devising a treatment plan for your kitty.  Please don’t hesitate to call us.

Written by: Dr. Longridge