What is a hairball?

Cats wash their fur by licking themselves. Normally, the hair passes through the stomach and intestines without problems, but during the shedding period or in long-haired cats, hairballs that collect in the cat's stomach and intestines can become a problem. The hair doesn't break down in the gastrointestinal tract and a lot of hair can form a hairball, also called a trichobezoar.

Hairballs form in the stomach and cats usually vomit them up. If the hairballs continue down the digestive system and end up in the intestine, they can cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract.

Sometimes the hairball needs to be surgically removed

If your cat vomits, tries to vomit without success, has a poor appetite or is generally lethargic, you need to take it to the vet. Through a physical examination or diagnostic imaging, the veterinarian can diagnose whether it may be due to a hairball and, if so, where it is located. If the hairball is firmly lodged in the intestine, an operation may be necessary.

How do I prevent hairballs in my cat?

If you find that your cat has problems with hairballs, regularly brush your cat to remove loose fur, preferably daily if your cat tolerates it. During the shedding period, this is particularly important.

There are no agents that can dissolve hairballs, but you can try to prevent them from forming, and you can try to increase intestinal motility through, for example, fibre-rich feed so that the hair passes out the normal way more easily.

Frequently asked questions about hairballs