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Your Cat and Hairballs

April 15 2018

Did you know that April 27th is Hairball Awareness Day? This unofficial holiday isn’t to focus on the plight of hairballs. Hairballs are definitely not something to celebrate! This kitty-centric holiday is actually to raise awareness about hairballs, and the dangers they can present to our feline friends. Here, a McHenry, IL vet discusses—you guessed it—hairballs.

What Hairballs Are

As you’ve likely noticed, our feline pals are very, very diligent about their beauty regimens. Fluffy will take time to groom her pretty fur every day to keep it clean and soft. Sooner or later, your furry little diva will swallow some of her own hair during this process. It’s probably safe to say that you know what happens next. It’s not one of Fluffy’s cuter traits.


Hairballs are, unfortunately, somewhat par for the course with our feline pals. However, there are things you can do to prevent or at least reduce them. First, make sure to brush your kitty regularly. This will remove that dead fur and dander from her coat before she swallows it. (It also will help cut down on the amount of cat fur you find stuck to your clothes and furniture, but that’s another topic.) It’s also important to make sure your pet is getting proper nutrition. A good, nourishing diet will keep your cat’s fur soft and shiny, reducing the amount of dry, dead fur she sheds. Keeping your furry friend indoors will also help. Cats that go outside tend to grow thick coats in winter, which means more shedding the rest of the year. You may also want to consider asking your vet about hairball prevention products. We definitely recommend this for cats with long and/or thick fur.

Danger Signs

Occasionally, cats are unable to properly expel their hairballs. This can be very dangerous! Hairballs can cause serious intestinal blockages, which would constitute a very dangerous medical emergency. Fluffy can’t tell you if she’s having trouble, so you’ll need to watch for warning signs, such as dry heaving and/or excessive vomiting. Keep an eye out for general signs of illness as well. Some common ones are hiding, poor grooming, and unusual behavior or vocalizations. Contact your vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.

Our Advice on Your Cat and Hairballs in 2024

What is the significance of Hairball Awareness Day?

Hairball Awareness Day, observed on April 27th, is essential in pet health education. It’s dedicated to raising awareness among cat owners about the potential dangers of hairballs. Although hairballs are common in cats, they can sometimes lead to serious health issues such as intestinal blockages. This day encourages owners to learn about prevention strategies, such as regular grooming and proper nutrition, which can significantly reduce the frequency and risk of hairballs. It’s a reminder that understanding and addressing this common issue is critical to maintaining a cat’s health and well-being.

Why is a proper diet important for reducing hairballs in cats?

A proper diet plays a crucial role in reducing hairballs in cats. High-quality cat food rich in fiber aids digestion and helps move ingested fur through the gastrointestinal tract more efficiently, thus preventing the formation of hairballs. A diet that keeps a cat’s coat healthy and minimizes excessive shedding can also decrease the amount of hair swallowed during grooming. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in premium cat foods, contribute to a healthier coat. Ultimately, a balanced, nutrient-rich diet supports overall health and can significantly reduce cat hairball issues.

What hairball prevention products might a veterinarian recommend?

Veterinarians often recommend several products to prevent hairballs in cats. These include specialized hairball control cat foods formulated with increased fiber to help move hair through the digestive tract more effectively. Laxative pastes or gels, typically containing petroleum jelly or mineral oil, are also commonly suggested. These products lubricate the hair, facilitating its passage through the intestines. In addition, various supplements are available that aid digestion and coat health, potentially reducing shedding. Always consult a veterinarian before starting any new treatment to ensure it’s appropriate for the cat’s health needs.

What are the danger signs that a cat cannot expel a hairball?

Several warning signs may indicate a potential health risk when a cat cannot expel a hairball. Persistent gagging, hacking, or retching without producing a hairball is a common symptom. Additionally, watch for changes in bowel movements, such as constipation or diarrhea, which can signal an intestinal blockage. A decreased appetite, lethargy, or a noticeable behavior change can also be concerning. If a cat exhibits frequent vomiting, especially with traces of hair, it’s a red flag. These symptoms warrant immediate veterinary attention to prevent severe complications like gastrointestinal obstruction.

What role does a vet clinic play in managing a cat’s health concerning hairballs?

A vet clinic plays a pivotal role in managing a cat’s health regarding hairballs. Veterinarians assess the severity of hairball issues and provide tailored advice on prevention strategies, such as proper grooming techniques and dietary adjustments. They can recommend or prescribe specific hairball control products like nutritional supplements or laxative gels. In cases where hairballs cause complications like blockages, vets are essential for diagnosis and treatment, including medication, dietary changes, or surgery in severe cases. Regular check-ups also help monitor a cat’s overall health, ensuring that hairball-related issues are addressed promptly and effectively.

Please feel free to contact us, your McHenry, IL pet clinic, for all your kitty’s veterinary care needs. We’re happy to assist!