All cats groom themselves, and while all this regular personal hygiene adds to a lovely, clean coat, if performed too often the behavior can also yield unwanted results. Cat hairballs are a direct reaction to the licking of a fur coat every single day. But if they occur with greater frequency than 1-2 times a year, larger medical concerns may be going on.
The Act of Self-Grooming
Kittens learn to clean themselves from their mothers, but they don’t really excel at this behavior until they are well into adulthood. Cats with longer hair are known for coughing up more hairballs than their shorter-haired relatives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean owners should accept it as a normal thing.
Cats come equipped with special adaptations that allow their gastrointestinal system to digest normal amounts of hair. A healthy adult or senior cat with a typical lifestyle should be able to groom themselves (along with fellow housemates) and process the hair naturally. It is not unusual to see hair wrapped up in a standard bowel movement left in the litter box.
Not Status Quo
Frequent vomiting is indicative of something else going on in the body that demands attention. Regularly hacked up cat hairballs (either daily or weekly) should definitely be noted and checked out.
What You See, What You Get
Hairballs occur when dead hair and debris are ingested during self-grooming. As we mentioned, the normal process allows the hair to pass through the digestive system, but when they irritate the stomach, they are squeezed back up through the esophagus and out through the mouth, often coated with stomach bile, saliva, and even partially digested food or grass. As a result, cat hairballs are actually sort of elongated.
Are Cat Hairballs…Good?
One could easily guess that it’s good to throw up something that doesn’t belong in the body. There have been cases of cats accumulating so much hair that they became gastrointestinal obstructions that require surgical removal. So, between those two options, regurgitated cat hairballs may seem like a better option!
Not So Fast
What You Can Do to Help
If medical concerns have been ruled out, and your cat simply needs help reducing the frequency of cat hairballs, you may try to:
- Brush your cat’s coat every day. Reward them with lots of praise and affection.
- Purchase hairball-fighting cat treats (they’re irresistible!)
- Add fiber to their diet.
- Have them professionally groomed during the high-shedding seasons (spring and early summer, or fall).