All About Hairballs

image of a white cat.

Does your favorite feline leave you hairballs as gifts? If so, you’re not alone. Although we love cats for being meticulous groomers, it’s safe to say we don’t like finding hairy presents around the house. Let’s explore what causes hairballs and how to prevent them.

What Causes a Hairball?

Hairballs are clusters of fur, or hair, that your cat unintentionally swallows while grooming himself or herself. When enough hair is ingested and collects in your cat’s digestive tract, it forms a “hairball.” Cats that have long hair, shed excessively or constantly groom themselves are prone to developing hairballs.

Is It Harmful to My Cat’s Health?

Most hairballs are harmlessly coughed up by your cat and do not pose a threat to his or her health. Hairballs are usually passed in vomit or through fecal matter. However, frequent hairballs could be a symptom of abnormal gastrointestinal motility, inflamed intestinal tissue or cancer.

Please contact your veterinarian for an examination if your cat:

  • Continues gagging for more than one day
  • Seems constipated
  • Suffers from chronic diarrhea

Ways to Prevent Hairballs

You can decrease the amount of fur that your cat ingests while grooming himself or herself by brushing your cat regularly. This should help prevent the formation of hairballs. If your cat has long hair, it’s recommended that you brush him or her daily. (In some cases, cats with long hair who are not brushed often enough can suffer from extremely matted hair, which can be difficult to manage. Once the hair is matted, it is often too difficult to brush and may require shaving.)

You can decrease the amount of fur that your cat ingests while grooming himself or herself by brushing your cat regularly. This should help prevent the formation of hairballs. If your cat has long hair, it’s recommended that you brush him or her daily. (In some cases, cats with long hair who are not brushed often enough can suffer from extremely matted hair, which can be difficult to manage. Once the hair is matted, it is often too difficult to brush and may require shaving.)

There are dietary options for your cat that may help decrease the risk of hairballs as well. Many brands of commercial cat food now include formulas to help reduce hairballs while improving the health of cats’ coat and skin. Feeding your cat these types of products may also decrease shedding and increase your cat’s fiber intake. If you do not wish to change your cat’s diet, you can opt for a hairball remedy or lubricant to help your cat pass hairballs through the digestive tract.

Another simple, and fun, solution is to purchase your cat a new toy. This will redirect your cat’s attention from grooming to playing with the new toy — and provide an opportunity to enjoy some quality time with your pet.

If your cat suffers from frequent hairballs, contact your veterinarian to discuss possible treatment options, including changing your cat’s diet.

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Ocean Animal Clinic of Santa Cruz

Monday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Thursday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Saturday:

9:00 am-2:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

The Cat Clinic of Santa Cruz

Monday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Thursday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Saturday:

9:00 am-2:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "My well loved dog, Bella, was well taken care of with gentleness and excellent care. She is so much healthier after her dental treatment. I highly recommend Dr. Hall and his staff. They truly care and have exceptional communication regarding the recommended and provided care."
    Catherine
  • "Our little dog needed extractions. We found the Ocean Animal Clinic and Dr. Hall. They took fabulous care of him -- even including a nail clipping and ear check. Both the vet and the staff were open and transparent. The surgeon was top notch and the staff really cared about our dog and us. Our little guy bounced back quickly. All this for a lot less money than we feared as well. Highly recommended!"
    Terra
  • "Dr. Hall and the staff at Ocean Animal Clinic are truly unique. Most vets are compassionate but always peddling unnecessary expensive services and drugs. Dr. Hall is compassionate, direct and alternative. He really seems to be in tune with the animals.

    My baby, Harry, is ill and his prognosis is not what a mother wants to hear. But, Dr. Hall was so good with him and also our girl Roxy.

    Just a truly decent, loving Vet. Thank you."
    Jennifer
  • "The Ocean Animal Clinic staff have been caring for my adult turtles since 2011 and I cannot imagine trusting another veterinarian with their care. As a college student he was able to help me find ways to improve the care I provided my pets and his payment options (accepts CareCredit!) helped ensure that my pets received the medical attention they needed on time.

    I consider Ocean Animal Clinic a part of my family and would recommend their services to anyone without hesitation.

    Thank you, OAC!"
    Alejandra