Hairballs develop in your cat’s stomach as a result of the self-cleaning. Your cat will lick their fur diligently to remove dirt and debris, and also for reasons of self-calming. Your kittens earliest memories would be being lovingly cleaned by their mother… so the act of self-cleaning is often undertaken when they are stressed, embarrassed, tired or otherwise out of sorts.

Usually, hairballs are more a messy nuisance than a real health problem. They are a natural feline reaction to having too much hair in their digestive tract and your cat is designed to throw them up lest they become causes of intestinal blockage. Of course, should your cat NOT through them up… that is more cause for worry.

So why do cats swallow their fur when they groom themselves?
They don’t really have a choice. They have hook-like structures on their tongue which catch loose hairs which are deposited at the backs of their throats and swallowed. Most often they just pass through harmlessly but if a ball if formed your cat’s body knows what to do!

Long-haired cats, all cats during a change of seasons from cold to warm and cats that are not brushed regularly are prone to hairballs. It’s most important that you assist your cat in limiting its fur ball ingesting by brushing them regularly. Kittens are usually less fastidious with their cleaning and as a result of the lower level of licking will also get fewer fur balls.

The act of Furball Expulsion
Is like a lifetime smoker clearing their lungs. Your cat will start to make a hawking noise, arch its back and after a couple of goes up will come a goo covered ball of fur. Hallways are a favourite place, but nowhere is sacred.

Coughing up a hairball is not to be confused with a cat that is in fact sick. A cat with an intestinal blockage that is unable to pass food through its digestive tract will also cough up stomach contents in a similar fashion, but it will be much more regular, voluminous and the cat will quickly lose condition. Be alert but not panicked to different or additional symptoms to normal hairball expulsions such as:-

  1. Ongoing vomiting or gagging that does not produce a hairball.
  2. Reduced or complete loss of appetite.
  3. An empty kitty litter tray. If your cat is an outdoor pooper do your best to see if their behaviour changes with regard to their normal visits to the garden.
  4. General malaise, lethargy, constipation or diarrhoea

In such cases, it’s off to the vet time.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.