Cat hairball complications

If you have a cat, you’ve probably seen her struggle to expel a hairball. It’s not a pretty sight. No matter how much you love your cat, her attempts to release a hairball can turn a pleasant, playful moment into an anxious event. From the noise and jerky movements, the whole experience seems uncomfortable. It’s a regular occurrence, especially for long-haired cat breeds.

As your cat struggles to dislodge her hairball, she often retches and gags, and makes disagreeable noises. After what seems like an extended period of focused effort, your cat releases a wet, messy elongated blob onto the floor. She then turns and walks away, leaving you to clean up the mess.

How does a cat hairball form

A cat hairball forms from the hair your cat swallows during self-grooming. As she licks her fur, her tongue dislodges, shedding hair. The hair usually passes through your cat’s digestive system without a problem. If it remains in her stomach, it often builds up and forms a ball. This formation is also known as a trichobezoar. They’re most common in long-haired cats as they have more hair to shed.

Eventually, your cat releases her hairballs by vomiting them up. That process triggers the gagging, retching, and other noises that are often difficult for a pet parent to watch. During this process, your cat goes through a few moments of discomfort, and so do you. When that wet messy cat hairball blob comes to rest at your feet, you can take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t as physically disruptive as it could have been.

A cat hairball can cause major problems

Hairballs aren’t always a simple complication. Sometimes instead of passing or vomiting the accumulated hair, it gets stuck. Hair blockages seldom form in areas between a cat’s esophagus, stomach, or intestine. The Cornell Feline Health Center cautions pet owners to contact their veterinarian if they notice these symptoms.

  • Multiple episodes of unproductive retching
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

These symptoms sometimes indicate that your cat is suffering from a blocked intestine. That’s an infrequent worst-case scenario, but your cat requires professional attention to rule it out.

Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests and may keep your cat under observation for several days. Vets sometimes treat cat hairball obstructions with laxatives. Occasionally, a cat hairball intestine blockage requires surgical intervention.

Preventing hairballs

If you have a long-haired cat, you won’t be able to prevent hairballs completely. You can take steps to minimize the problem. When you brush your cat regularly, you remove some of her shedding hair before she ingests it. This is particularly important as your cat’s coat begins to shed more when the weather warms up. If your cat vomits hairballs frequently, talk to your veterinarian about other preventative solutions.

Contact Hebron Veterinary Hospital

If you have a cat hairball concern, give us a call at (860) 228-4324. We will gladly answer any pet-related questions. If your cat requires medical attention or it’s time for a checkup, we’ll schedule an appointment.