Hairball Symptoms Cat Lovers Must Know

Published: 14th November 2007
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If you're a cat lover like me, few things are more important than the continued good health of your favorite tabby. It goes without saying that part of being a cat lover is accepting responsibility for your cat's health. That means finding and building a good relationship with a local veterinarian in the event of an emergency. It also means learning enough about common medical issues to be able to identify them and take the necessary action to ensure your cat's good health.

All cat owners are familiar with hairballs and it goes without saying that the hairball is one of the most common medical conditions in cats. Cats are celebrated groomers and hairballs are the unintended consequence of a cat's passion for personal hygiene. When a cat grooms itself by licking its own fur, it will invariably swallow some of its own hair. Most of the hair a cat swallows passes safely through the cat's stomach and remaining digestive tract. However, hair sometimes becomes entwined like a ball of string and a hairball forms.

In most cases, cats are able to take care of a hairball on their own simply by vomiting. Hairballs, however, can grow to a size that your cat cannot pass or vomit. When this happens, a hairball can cause a serious and even life-threatening blockage of the digestive tract. Common symptoms include unproductive retching or heaving, a change in eating habits or digestion, or even a swollen abdomen. If you notice symptoms like these, take your cat to the vet right away.

A good ballpark estimate is that about 25 percent of all digestive blockages in cats are the result of unpassed hairballs. Fortunately, serious problems can often be avoided by taking a proactive approach that emphasizes prevention. If your cat seems to have an abnormally high incidence of hairballs, a prophylactic chat with your vet is in order. He or she may recommend a high fiber diet or prescribe medication that will lubricate your cat's digestive track. Cats like the taste of the flavored meds, which can prevent hairballs from forming at all.

Because hairballs can seriously impact your cat's health, it's important to have a good relationship with a qualified veterinarian should your cat require professional care. Remember, too, that regular checkups can add many years to the life of your favorite feline. If you need a vet, try asking a fellow cat lover for their personal recommendation. If you're new to the neighborhood or have no one to ask, you can find a qualified vet in your area by checking your local or online yellow pages.

Matt Paolini is a cat lover and Managing Editor of, the Internet's leading family-safe yellow pages directory. Locate a veterinarian in your neighborhood using's online yellow pages.

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Catkin on September 6, 2011 said:
You know that nasty sound: That hacking, gacking, yacking sound your cat makes right before he's about to cough up a hairball! And he always seems to do it on the carpet or the couch
yvonne on September 6, 2011 said:
My cat started coughing up fur balls quite frequently along with a dry cough then this week his stomach was swollen I took him to the vet to find out that its his heart causing all the problems and the swelling is due to fluid he may not make it all I ask is if in dout have your cat checked out by a vet
Emma Morris on September 14, 2011 said:
Cats are like children to some people. Having them be ill is often upsetting for the owner but as soon as you notice something wrong with you pet they should be taken straight to a vet to avoid symptoms getting worse. Hairballs may seem like a minor problem but they could have serious consequences on your cats health.

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