Intestinal hairballs in cats occur because cats lick themselves to keep clean. Hair can accumulate into balls in the intestines and this can cause a host of problems for the cat. Most hairballs pass with relative ease, but in some cases a cat may need emergency medical attention to have the hairball removed. Knowing the signs and symptoms and how to prevent hairballs can help a cat live a happy and healthy life with little or no problems from hairballs.
Many cat owners assume that because they have a cat that has short hair that their feline friend cannot suffer from hairballs, but this is not true. In addition, many cat owners believe as long as their cat is not a compulsive groomer that a hairball problem will never occur. Short-haired cats as well as cats that are not compulsive groomers can suffer from hairballs, and problems can surface in any cat at any time.
The first hairball seen in a cat is something that the owner will not soon forget. Generally a cat that has hairballs will surprise his or her owner with a tube shaped mass on the floor or the furniture. This is basically an accumulation of hair and mucus from the intestines or stomach that the cat has thrown up.
Many owners may not actually see a hairball but will notice that their cat is passing faeces that are quite hard in appearance and have a lot of hair in them. Other cats will show signs of a problem with hairballs with a repeated dry cough, which is especially noticeable after eating. Retching after meals is also a common symptom of problems with hairballs.
Cats that have frequent hairballs will suffer some symptoms, including but not limited to the drying out of their fur or a suddenly matted coat of fur when they have never had problems with their fur in the past. Other cats will suffer from a lack of interest in eating or depression and fatigue as a result of the hairballs.
While millions of cats suffer from hairballs, they don't necessarily have to. It is a common problem that is often resolved on its own, but there are things that owners can do to help relieve the problem of hairballs or prevent it from occurring at all.
Cats that are brushed are much less likely to suffer from hairballs. The act of brushing is not only enjoyable to most cats, but it also removes all of the dead hair from the cat so it does not end up in the cat's digestive tract.
There are now cat foods available that are meant to prevent the accumulation of hairballs in the digestive tract. These foods are often higher in fats, which help to move any accumulation of hair in the intestines through the cat's body without a problem.
Some cat owners treat their cats preventatively at home by feeding the cat 1/2 tsp of butter once or twice a week. This, like the hairball food formulas, helps to move hairballs through the system, allowing for them to pass easily.
The risk with intestinal hairballs is associated with blockages in the intestines. If the cat cannot pass the hairball through retching or through a bowel movement the hairball can cause a blockage that can cause intense pain or death if not surgically removed. While a blockage doesn't happen to all cats, it can happen to any cat at any time.
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