Cat lovers know the familiar sound of our kitty friends horking up a hairball. Hairballs are a common cat behavior, and depending on the breed, they are a manageable issue. The question is, why do cats get hairballs?
What exactly is a hairball? Hairballs are a collection of hair clumps, mixed with digestive juices. If you've been lucky enough to step on one either barefoot or even wearing a sock, you know they are gross.
Cats groom themselves with their tongues, and this causes hairballs. Cat tongues are very rough, because they contain small hooklike structures, called papillae. When a cat licks its fur during grooming, loose cat hair is swallowed. The cat's hair passes through the digestive system and is expelled. Sometimes the cat hair collects in its stomach, forming a wet hair mass. These can make your cat feel uncomfortable, and cats regurgitate them to feel better.
Hairballs are generally not dangerous to cats. Older and long hair cat breeds tend to get more hairballs than short-haired cats and kittens. You know your cat best, and if your cat is not eating and seems lethargic, that could mean a hairball is stuck and should be checked out by a vet.
You can cut down on the number of hairballs by regularly grooming your cat and using a specialty cat food, design to aid in hairball digestion. You can always check with your vet for more tips.