We all know how cats love to keep themselves clean and if you are a cat owner yourself you can probably agree that a large amount of your cat's time is spent cleaning and beautifying itself. A common side effect of this fastidious approach to personal hygiene is that some cats then develop hairballs. We often get phone calls from owners worried about their cat having vomited up a UFO (Unidentified Furry Object) and often enough, it is a hairball.

Hairballs, despite the name are generally tube-shaped, and sometimes won't be the same colour as your cat as they have rested in the stomach for a while. They are most commonly seen in long-haired cats, such as Persians and also in cats that are compulsive groomers. They are formed as the cat grooms itself and the little raspy bits on the cat's tongue grab onto any loose hairs and then the cat swallows them. Most of the hair passes through the digestive tract without a problem, but every now and then, some hair gathers in the stomach and the only way out is back up the oesophagus I'm afraid!

General symptoms of hairballs in cats are retching or hacking, a lack of appetite and a generally forlorn moggy. These symptoms should pass as soon as the hairball does, however, if they persist for any longer than a day with no hairballs in sight we do recommend that you bring your cat into us for a quick check over just to be sure it's nothing more sinister. 

If your cat begins to produce hairballs more frequently than normal for him or her, it may be a sign of an underlying problem. Overgrooming due to a skin condition or pain in the urinary tract may cause increased hairball formation by taking in more hair. Changes in the speed or efficiency of digestion can also be the cause reduced ability to pass the hairball in the faeces, and more vomiting of hairballs. So, if you notice a sudden increase in hairball episodes, a check up may be advised.

People have many different home remedies for hairballs, but here at Just Cats we recommend regular grooming, especially for long haired cats or when your cat appears to be shedding more than usual. We do stock a dietary supplements that has a laxative effect on the digestive system to help the hairball to pass, however I think you will agree that prevention is better than cure! We stock a preventative diet specially designed for cats that have trouble with hairballs that should reduce the frequency of hairball formation.

If you have any worries about your cat's coat or if you think that he or she is producing too many hairballs or even if you just have a couple more questions after reading this article, don't hesitate to give us a call on 01 822 7270. We are all more than willing to help!

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Dublins First Cat Only Veterinary Clinic; Just Cats Veterinary Clinic, Coolmine, Clonsilla, Dublin 15.

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