Cat hairballs can be a bit scary if you've never seen them before. If your kitty starts retching, then vomits up what looks like a slug, it's probably a hairball. Closer inspection (if you can bear it!) should confirm that it's a cluster of matted fur.
Cause, Prevention And Treatment
Hairballs occur when a cat swallows her own hair. Kitty has a very rough tongue, designed to assist with grooming. When she washes herself, hair sticks to her tongue. She can't spit the hair out, so she swallows it.
Cat hair can't be digested, so it must pass out of Kitty's system at one end or the other. If there's a small amount of hair, it will usually move through the digestive system and be passed with the feces. But if there's too much, it can't pass from the stomach into the small intestine, so Kitty has to get rid of it by vomiting. (Sorry, this is a truly gross subject!)
The easiest way to reduce the amount of hair that your kitty swallows is to groom her, preferably on a daily basis. This removes loose hair. The less loose hair that's still on her body, the less she'll swallow.
Some cat foods have added ingredients (usually fiber) that help to reduce hairball formation.
Cat fleas cause excessive grooming. So regular flea treatment should also help to reduce the risk.
If your cat is suffering from hairballs regularly, you can use a commercial lubricant product, which will aid the passage of the hair through Kitty's system. In really extreme cases (which are rare), surgery may be required to remove the hairball.
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