Hairballs Are No Laughing Matter 😉
Yesterday was National Hairball Awareness Day, so The Moustache Cats want you to become aware of how uncomfortable hairballs are.
And how much better it is for loose fur to be a moustache than a hairball.
If you share a home with a cat, you probably find ewey, gooey, soggy hairballs around your house. (My husband’s bare foot discovered one the other morning). Unfortunately, hairballs are common in most cats. And not only is stepping barefoot into one not cool, but it’s not cool for cats.
Most folks think hairballs are a normal part of kitty life, but this is NOT true. Hairballs are not healthy.
Feline Fact: More than one or two hairballs a year is not normal.
What IS normal is a cat’s ingestion of fur during grooming. This process can occur over a third of a cat’s waking hours! Once the fur is ingested, it moves to the cat’s stomach and intestines via peristalsis (the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles). If the fur becomes entangled, it can form a mass that cannot be eliminated via the normal poop-shoot-route.
Feline Medical Facts
- Many people assume that vomiting up hairballs is a normal thing for cats simply because they groom themselves and ingest a lot of fur in the process — but vomiting up hairballs is not normal
- Frequent vomiting of hairballs is a symptom worthy of a trip to your veterinarian, particularly in short-haired cats, because it could be a sign of an underlying chronic disease
- Itchy skin diseases, flea infestation and underlying dietary intolerances could all be contributing factors to frequent hairballs
- Dietary changes that build and balance a cat’s microbiome, including a moisture-rich, species-appropriate diet, fiber, omega-3 fats and enzymes, are often effective in eliminating hairballs, along with more frequent grooming
Hairballs Found In More than Felines
Did you know that cats aren’t the only ones to get hairballs? Humans and cud-chewing animals (cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer, antelopes) get hairballs, too! The technical name for this is “bezoar” (pronounced BE-zor). A bezoar is a mass of nondigestible matter that collects in the stomach. “Bezoar” is a Persian word that means “protection from poison,” because bezoars were believed to be a universal antidote against poisoning.
Bezoars from wild goats, antelopes, and other cud-chewing animals of Persia were introduced to Europe in the 11th century where they were popular in medicinal remedies until the 18 century. In China, ground-up cow bezoars have been used as medicine for more than 2,000 years.
What’s In a Name … and In Their Tummy?
A Hairball’s real name is trichobezoars. Tricho means “hair,” and bezoar means “a clumping of material that is held or cemented together in the gastrointestinal tract.” Basically, hairballs are big wads of fur stuck together so firmly, they are unable to pass through the intestinal tract.
People say that cats cough up hairballs, but they do not. When a cat coughs, this involves their windpipe and lungs. Hairballs don’t go there, folks.
Feline Fact: Hairballs reside in the stomach and intestines. Hairballs do not cause “coughing.” They cause a cat to VOMIT.
Have a Heart – Help Them with their Hairballs!
Please don’t ignore the hairball issue. If it’s occurring, there’s something that needs to be addressed. We need to recognize that any underlying medical concerns can create and exacerbate behavioral challenges within our home. Health, behavior, and emotions are all connected.
Compassion essential for cats who are going through this.
Not only is barfing up your own fur really upsetting, it’s a sign of much bigger underlying issues. And it’s also vital we recognize that one unhealthy critter can lead to a myriad of behavioral and emotional challenges in the home. Hairballs need to be addressed immediately.
Dr. Karen Becker says:
- If you’re hearing or reading that beets or beet pulp is the remedy for cat hairballs, you should ignore this ill-advised recommendation
- Hairballs are common but not normal, so a cat who is producing them regularly should be seen by a veterinarian to rule out an underlying GI disease
- Barring an underlying disease process, most cats with hairballs are ingesting too much hair for some reason or are eating a moisture-deficient diet
- Help for cats with hairballs includes a moisture-rich species-appropriate diet, digestive enzymes and omega-3 supplements, and added fiber such as psyllium seed husk power or 100 percent canned pumpkin
- You can also consider a petroleum-free hairball remedy or a dab of coconut oil on kitty’s paw; also be sure to brush or comb your cat to help remove hair and debris