Hacking hairballs on National Hairball Day

Hacking hairballs on National Hairball Day

Hairballs can be disgusting, especially, if you’ve ever accidentally stepped on one with your bare feet. However, if you have cats, hairballs are something you just have to live with, like it or not.

Hacking hairballs on National Hairball Day

Hairballs may be more common in long-haired cats like Little Yellow.

The Paws household is no exception. With five felines, we have daily encounters with hairballs, not always from the same cat.

We had heard about National Hairball Day being observed the last Friday of every April, and we were curious as to what would make people want to celebrate the coughing, hacking, and yacking of hairballs?

It turns out National Hairball Day is not a humorous parody about cat’s yacking up a hairball, it is an educational tool to make people take another look at proper grooming.

Cats are meticulous groomers

Cats are meticulous groomers. They spend up to half of their waking hours making sure their coat is pristine. This could be related to their hardwired survival skills in the wild. They learn this at an early age, as newborn kittens get a mega dose of grooming by their Mommy Cat. Daily grooming become paramount to cats, and is more important than everything except food, and well of course, sleep.

Consequently a lot of fur is ingested, and sooner or later, your cat is likely to hack up a hairball.

National Hairball Awareness Day designed to educate

National Hairball Awareness Day is designed to educate owners on how to help cats have fewer hairballs. This include regular grooming with a pet brush to reduce the ingested fur, and a diet for hairball prevention.

In the veterinary world, hairballs are referred to as “trichobezoar” — wads of hair that accumulate in the digestive systems of animals that typically groom themselves. Cats along with rabbits, cattle, and even llamas can get hairballs.

As for cats, the little barbs on the tongue strip away dead undercoat hairs grooming. This loose hair usually travels through the entire digestive system and ends up in the litter box. However, if the hair gets stuck in the stomach, it will eventually become a hairball, which your cat will hack up.

Should cat owners be worried if their kitties cough up a hairball?

When a cat vomits there is usually hair mixed in, so owners often assume that it was just a hairball—something they think is a normal occurrence. In fact, there may be something else going on with the cat. While most hairballs are hacked up, some may require surgical removal. Many times people mistake asthma for hairballs. Paws did when our Little Yellow first developed asthmatic symptoms, and we wrote a post about it recently at Vets often overlook asthma

There are plenty of things you can do to reduce hairballs, including:

  • Grooming with a brush.
  • Using Petroleum-based cat treats can help keep the hair moving through the cat’s digestive system a so it doesn’t get stuck in the stomach.
  • Trying cats food, treats or a vet approved product to reduce hairballs by improving the skin and coat health.
  • Making sure your cat is drinking plenty of water.
  • Spending more time playing with your cats, as bored cats may over groom.
    Hairballs on National Hairball Day
    The content of this blog post is educational. If your cat is having excessive hairball, please consult with your veterinarian.
    Hairballs on National Hairball Day

Please leave your Paw Prints & Comments

What is your most disgusting hairball story? Do you groom your cats regularly? What have you found is the best way to reduce the number of hairballs? Please share your thoughts and comments to help Paws’ readers get a better understanding of how they can reduce kitty’s hairballs.

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BJ Bangs

BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

8 Responses

  1. Last year, Bear REALLY struggled during shed season. I got a Furminator this year – and so far, so good. He doesn’t purr while I brush him like he did with the slicker brush, but I can’t believe how much fur I get every other day! Bear overgrooms a bit – mostly on his belly. I’ve tried everything – playing, de-stressing, etc – in the hopes it would improve – with little luck. I suppose cats are much like us in that the coping strategies they employ become their own beasts of habit.

    • BJ says:

      Good to know about the Furminator. I’ve never tried one, but maybe I should. It’s funny how the kitties are so different. Two hardly ever have hairballs, but the other two, well, it’s frequent.

  2. While avoidance of ingestion is an important tool in managing hairballs, cats are not like owls, and hacking up more than the occasional hairball means there may be a problem brewing. Healthy cats with healthy GI systems pass all that hair. If they are not, there is a problem with gastric emptying. Indigestible solids – like hair – are the last thing to leave the stomach. Free feeding is one cause of this: cats need the powerful peristaltic waves of hunger pangs to trigger gastric emptying that pushes hair on through.

    In 2014 Dr. Gary Norsworthy and associates published the rather shocking finding, in a review of 100 cats presenting with

    – frequent vomiting or
    – vomiting a hairball more than once every two months in any cat and more than once every two months [yes, you read that right] in a short haired cat, and/or
    – chronic small bowel diarrhea,
    some weight loss, or a combination of these

    that 99 of those 100 cats had either Inflammatory Bowel Disease (“chronic enteritis”) or cancer. The retrospective case history was expanded to 300 cats, results published in 2015. Unfortunately, study results were substantially similar. So no, hairballs are not normal. They are a sign of inadequate small bowel motility and improper gastric emptying.

  3. 15andmeowing says:

    Excellent post. I have stepped in and sat in many a hairball.

  4. I never get hairballs, believe it or not, but Lexy does. They’re yucky. Mommy tries to brush us regularly, and she buys hairball control food which works for Lexy.

    • BJ says:

      Two of our cats rarely get hairballs, but the other three do. Our Siamese cries when he has a hairball, so we always know what’s coming. The other two, don’t give an y warning though.

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