Cat Clinic

Veterinary Hospital and Luxury Boarding

Thoughtful and compassionate feline health care and lodging. 

Hairball Awareness 2016

OK Cat owner's. We've all been here. You get out of bed in the morning and walk down the hallway when suddenly you feel something cold, and wet squishing between your toes. The other common scenario...nothing wakes a cat owner out of a sound slumber faster than the sound of a cat about to vomit on the bed. If you own a cat, chances are you've experienced the annoyances of hairballs. 

Notice the tiny barbs on the tongue

Notice the tiny barbs on the tongue

Hairballs are historically considered "normal" in cats, but what do we really know about hairballs? Well, usually log shaped rather than ball shaped, hairballs are accumulations of hair that form in the stomach and intestines of cats. As you may have noticed, cats are fastidious groomers, and they ingest a lot of hair when they are cleaning themselves. Cats' tongues have dozens of tiny barbs (papillae) that are backward-facing. These little papillae are an extremely effective hairbrush, pulling any loose hair and debris from the cat's fur into it's mouth, where it is ingested and swallowed into the gastrointestinal tract. So, what happens to all of that hair? Well, in most cases the intestines move the hair through where it is expelled in the feces. In some cases, the hair collects in the stomach and forms into large clumps, which cannot be passed into the small intestines so there's only one way left for it to go. Back out the way it came in, although occasionally the hairball passes into the small intestines where it can cause a life-threatening obstruction requiring surgical intervention.

So, are hairballs normal for cats? Well, that's partially true. A hairball once or twice a month can be completely normal in healthy cats. Especially long-haired cats. We do however become concerned when cats vomit up a hairball more than twice a month or so. This can be a sign of intestinal disease. Some common intestinal diseases in cats can affect the ability of the small intestines to move hair through the GI tract, leading to hairball accumulation. 

Can hairballs be prevented? In some cases, hairballs can be minimized by frequently brushing your cat. This is not only a great way to bond with your cat(see happy cat brushing video), but it also removes a lot of the loose hair that would otherwise be ingested by your cat. Another option is to administer a commercially available, petroleum based hairball remedy. These products lubricate the intestinal tract to assist the hair in passing through into the feces. A combination of brushing and petroleum based hairball remedy can be used together to get the best results. Remember, hairballs more than twice a month on a consistent basis should prompt a visit to the vet.

One more tip: Coughing and hacking without bringing up a hairball can be a sign of a more serious problem. Monitor your cat closely. If a hairball doesn't come up after a few attempts, time to go to the vet!


Daily Pilot article Features Cat Clinic

A special thanks to Contact Reporter Bradley Zint of the Daily Pilot for the great article on our reopening titled New owners couldn't see Cat Clinic close for good.

 Photo by (SCOTT SMELTZER / Daily Pilot)

 Photo by (SCOTT SMELTZER / Daily Pilot)

Cat Clinic

1680 Tustin Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA, 92627
Phone (949) 642-3494
Fax (949) 642-3051

Hours of Operation

Monday through Friday 8am to 6pm
Saturday 9am to 1pm
Sunday Closed

Copyright Cat Clinic 2015.