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Hairballs… Yucky and Dangerous

Hairballs are the yucky, tubular evidence that your cat has been grooming. When you first see a hairball on the carpet or floor, you may easily mistake it for feces because of its color and shape. Your nose will quickly tell you though that this yucky thing came out of the other end of the cat.

What is a Hairball?

Cats as famously fastidious groomers and because of the backward-facing barbs on the tongue (hence, the rough feeling when you are licked by a cat), the hair that gets trapped by these barbs will be sent down the throat and into the stomach. A small amount of loose hair that goes through the digestive system will often just pass through without problem and end up mixed in with the feces. Upon closer inspection of your cat’s fecal deposit (when you scoop – I’m not suggesting you get up close and personal with cat poop) you may notice some hair wrapped in there.

Sometimes the amount of hair swallowed is so dense that it can’t pass through the stomach and gets regurgitated back up in the form of that tubular shaped hairball.

The Danger of Hairballs

There are also times when the hairball passes out of the stomach but gets stuck in the intestinal tract and that can become a life-threatening situation because it can cause a blockage. If this happens, surgery is usually necessary to remove the blockage. If surgery isn’t indicated, your cat will still have a long hospital stay that includes hydration therapy, laxatives and close monitoring. Either situation will be stressful on the cat, uncomfortable, potentially life-threatening. It’s also costly to the cat parent.

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