The formation of hairballs is a common feline condition that is brought on by self-grooming and the associated ingestion of hair. Cats, rabbits, cattle, and even llamas can get hairballs! It might not be as glamorous as Christmas or as flashy as Halloween, but on the last Friday every April, it is time for all cat owners to celebrate a very important holiday: National Hairball Awareness Day!
National Hairball Awareness Day serves as an annual reminder to learn a bit more about hairballs. During a cat’s grooming session, the little barbs on a cat’s tongue strips away dead undercoat hairs. The loosened hair can end up in the gut, and most often it travels through the entire digestive system and is expelled into the litter box.
The amount of hair a typical cat swallows while grooming tends to vary. While some cats go through their whole lives without coughing up a hairball, others aren’t so lucky. If the wad of hair is stuck in the stomach, it will eventually trigger regurgitation.
If you notice your cat is producing hairballs quite frequently, or if you observe excessive gagging, coughing, hacking, vomiting, a loss of appetite, lethargy, or unusual stool consistency, then it might be best to consult a veterinarian. Cats who frequently regurgitate their hairballs may have an underlying medical condition such as inflammatory bowel disease or even cancer, according to the ASPCA.
Petroleum-based cat treats can help cats pass their hair the normal way, through their stool, by lubricating their digestive system to keep that hair moving. Some cat foods are specially designed to reduce hairballs by improving the skin and coat health. These foods are intended to reduce shedding hair and itchy skin while also adding fiber. Make sure your feline friend is drinking plenty of water, too, as hydration tends to help keep the digestive tract in good shape.