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Stupid, but...what is a hairball?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Just what is a hairball?

I've had cats for many years. I know what a hairball looks like, I know what they sound like, and I know what they're made of.

But I don't understand how they're made, and why. And why some cats can easily bring them up, and some can't.

Can anyone enlighten me? (and no, no pictures are needed...).

Best-
Michele
post #2 of 17
I'm not quite sure I understand your question? If you know what they are made of and have seen them (or stepped on them in the middle of the night while barefoot) you should pretty much know what they are and how they are formed.

On the surface of a cat's tongue are multiple barbs, that is why when your cat licks you, it isn't always a pleasant feeling. Those barbs catch up any dead hairs or undercoat when the cat grooms himself. The cat will bite, and chew the hair and the hair travels down the throat and into the stomach, where it sits and accumulates as more hair is swallowed. Soon it becomes a form or irritation to the cat, so the cat starts to hack and cough and produces up a hairball. Some hairballs are to large to be passed easily so then you have a cat who starts to be anorexic and not eat, or that becomes obstructed and surgery is the only way to relieve the pressure. Some of the hair will pass through the intestine to the bowel and come out in the feces, but the hair that doesn't pass has to be hacked up
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Nope, you understood it perfectly. And yes, I've stepped in many over my life...(eww). I just didn't know the technicalities.

Is there anything one can do if a cat has issues with hairballs? Often I think Esse has a problem with one, but I'm not sure what to do. She hacks and hacks, but nothing comes up.

Best-
Michele
post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by noni
Nope, you understood it perfectly. And yes, I've stepped in many over my life...(eww). I just didn't know the technicalities.

Is there anything one can do if a cat has issues with hairballs? Often I think Esse has a problem with one, but I'm not sure what to do. She hacks and hacks, but nothing comes up.

Best-
Michele
Yes, Penelope has this problem, too. What happens when the hairballs don't come up?
post #5 of 17
That's why you feed the laxatone or the petamalt because you hope that the fiber will absorb the hairball mass and get it moving so they elimate it in their stool.
post #6 of 17
The official name is trichobezoar. You can use a hairball paste like Catlax or Petromalt to lubricate them so that they can pass through. If you give it daily it helps pass a hairball and if you give a smaller amount every few days it will help to prevent the accumulation of hair in the gut. However, it is a petroleum product and can cause a depletion of the fat soluble vitamins, so it is not good to use it too often. Some hairball pastes compensate for this with added vitamins. Other treatments are to increase fiber by giving ground flaxseed or metamucil, however cats don't tolerate a lot of fiber, either, so don't go overboard. An appropriate amount of fiber can be found in hairball formulas of cat food. Becky
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by hissy
That's why you feed the laxatone or the petamalt because you hope that the fiber will absorb the hairball mass and get it moving so they elimate it in their stool.
I feel like I'm putting Laxastat on Penelope's fur two or three times a week. (She won't lick it from my finger so I have to wipe it on her paws or other places on her body). Is that normal? Maybe I'm not putting enough on?

The strange thing is Penelope has short hair. My medium-haired one doesn't get furballs.
post #8 of 17
I smear it on their front paws. That's the only way I can get them to lick it off and not fling it all over God's creation!
post #9 of 17
Penelope is hacking right now even though I just gave her some furball medication. I hate this!
post #10 of 17
If she is hacking frequently and the hairball medicine isn't working, you might want to have your vet give a listen to her lungs, just to be on the safe side. Sometimes it is easy to mix up a cough with a hack, so to speak. Cats can get asthma, too. Becky
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by zanniesmom
If she is hacking frequently and the hairball medicine isn't working, you might want to have your vet give a listen to her lungs, just to be on the safe side. Sometimes it is easy to mix up a cough with a hack, so to speak. Cats can get asthma, too. Becky
She's been to the vet specialist very regularly since she's recovering from pyothroax. All her lung x-rays and ultrasounds have been normal the past 6 weeks so I don't think it's asthma, but I will be sure to talk to the vet about this at her next appointment (January 13th). Thanks, Becky!
post #12 of 17
Maybe it is just residual from her pyothorax. Her lungs may be irritated and lead to a cough. Just be sure to mention it to the vet on her next visit, as long as she doesn't get short of breath with activity and her gums stay pink. Becky
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by zanniesmom
Maybe it is just residual from her pyothorax. Her lungs may be irritated and lead to a cough. Just be sure to mention it to the vet on her next visit, as long as she doesn't get short of breath with activity and her gums stay pink. Becky
Thanks, Becky. I will definitely mention this to the vet on her next visit and I'll be on the lookout for those signs!
post #14 of 17
You sure you don't want some pictures?

Just kidding!
post #15 of 17
Should I be worried that I have never, ever heard either of my cats hack up anything since I've had them? I've never seen any throw-up either......
post #16 of 17
Nope you should count yourself blessed! Though you really haven't lived if you haven't stepped on a hairball in the middle of the night barefoot, or found one in your slippers!
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by hissy
Nope you should count yourself blessed! Though you really haven't lived if you haven't stepped on a hairball in the middle of the night barefoot, or found one in your slippers!

Okay good, I was worried that maybe something was wrong if they didn't have hairballs......
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