Last Updated on April 8, 2020
Hairballs are part of your cat’s natural grooming process and on average are coughed up at least once every 2 months. This all depends on the cat’s age, size, fur length, and general cleaning habits. A strong digestive system with a good diet will result in fewer hairballs as well. On occasion, some cats may end up with a hairball that is seemingly stuck. For any kitty parent, this can be scary!
Where Do Hairballs Come From?
When a cat grooms itself, the hair goes directly into the digestive tract. There, most of the hair should be dissolved and eliminated through your cat’s poo. The hair that remains has to come out by other means. When your cat “coughs up” a hairball, it is actually puking out the hair. Many people believe the hair goes to the lungs or some sort of “sack” when it actually goes to the stomach and intestines.
What Causes a Hairball to Be Stuck?
A number of factors can play a role in a cat having trouble passing hairballs. Blockage can be a result of stress, poor digestion, bad diet, junk foods, excessive grooming, low levels of acid in the stomach and general illnesses.
How Do I Know If One Is Stuck?
Most cats experience a hairball being stuck at some point in their 9 lives. This can cause blockage in one or sometimes both ends. The result is usually constipation, excessive thirst, and vomiting. Below are signs your cat may have a hairball stuck somewhere:
- Wheezing and coughing
- Mouth breathing
- Throwing up after meals
- Drinking more water
- Loss of appetite
What Can I Do to Prevent Hairballs?
What you want to do is make sure your cat is on the right diet, first and foremost. A diet of only dry food will result in more hairballs. Part of a cat’s natural digestion process needs to include liquid in the food which is why wet (canned) food is the best option. It should also be very low in processed junk. You want to avoid corn, grain and most forms of yeast. You can add in small amounts of coconut oil or olive oil into wet food to ensure your cat’s digestive tract stays smooth. Allowing your kitty to enjoy grass is very beneficial as well. Don’t use grass from outside unless you know it is free from parasites and pesticides. It’s best to just buy cat grass planters from your local pet store. Grooming your cat’s hair is another thing you can do as well, this will reduce the amount of hair your cat digests as well as strengthen the bond between you both.
When to see a Veterinarian
If you notice your cat is having trouble going to the bathroom or breathing and they are also not eating or drinking, they need to be taken in right away. This means the mass of hair needs to be removed surgically. Large hairballs can cause suffocation as well as bowel blockage which can both lead to death if not treated.
What Should I Do If a Hairball Is Stuck Right Now?
Don’t panic. It’s rare for a cat to need a hairball surgically removed. In most cases, adjusting the diet and adding a healthy oil to their diet will help relieve the issue. What you want to do is use extra virgin coconut oil (organic is best) and allow your kitty to eat up to a tablespoon of this a day until the hairball is passed through either end. If they don’t like it, just melt it down and add some to each meal. If you don’t have coconut oil, pure olive oil is the second-best option. For very picky cats, butter is an option but it should never be given in excess or for more than a few days. It has to be pure butter as well. Never give your cat spreads of any kind.