Cat Hairballs Get a Holiday: National Hairball Awareness Day

Compare your cat's hairball health to other cats this April 27, and see how she stands up.

This National Hairball Awareness Day, Friday, April 27, consider your cat’s hairball health and check that your cat has a healthy relationship with her fur.

Cat hairballs consist of ingested fur that builds up in the stomach. When cats groom, they essentially eat some fur. Usually, cat fur passes through the intestinal tract without any problem. If the gastrointestinal tract has a problem, such as inflammation or how the intestines move their contents through the cat’s system, the fur can build up and the cat will need to regurgitate it.

The CATalyst Council is using National Hairball Awareness Day to inform cat owners about some misconceptions they may have about hairballs.  

“I tell cat owners that more than one or two hairballs a year is not normal,” said Dr. Jane Brunt, CATalyst Council’s executive director and a feline veterinarian. “Frequently, when a cat vomits there is hair mixed in, so owners often assume that it was just a hairball — something they think is a normal occurrence. In fact, there may be something else going on with the cat medically.”

Brunt says cat hairballs are not normal; cats have a digestive tract that, when it is healthy and working correctly, handles normal amounts of fur without problem. She says even longhaired cats should not develop more than one or two hairballs a year.

Avoiding Cat Hairballs
Help your cat prevent hairballs through frequent and regular brushing. This helps remove excess fur from cats before they ingest it while grooming. Brushing is also a great way to bond with your cat and can be used as a reward. “Brushing as a reward has two positive outcomes,” Brunt says. “First, your cat will have a lovely coat when properly brushed, and second, you may prevent your cat from becoming overweight if you are using brushing as a reward rather than treats.”

Take your cat to the veterinarian if your cat vomits on a regular basis, has frequent hairballs or coughs repeatedly (which some cat owners think a hairball causes). Also, take your cat to the vet if it coughs up hairballs more than once or twice a year because this might indicate an intestinal disorder, a skin disorder or an allergy. Finally, even with no obvious signs of problems, the best cat health tip is regular veterinary visits for your cats at least once a year.

For more information on hairballs, listen to Brunt’s AVMA Animal Tracks podcast on the subject here. The AVMA also has a kids’ video on hairballs here.

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