Hairballs, or fur balls are also called 'trichobezoars', fancy name, right?
We cats are fastidious groomers, we love to be clean and pretty (or handsome!) We spend about 10% of our daily waking routine making sure our coats are very clean and glossy, we must always look our very best! Because our tongues have little barbs on them, which makes it feel like sandpaper on our human's skin, we tend to grab lots of loose fur during our grooming which we can usually pass in the litter box. The problem with furballs is when the hair ends up in our tummies instead of going through, it makes us not feel well at all, and makes us have to throw up to get rid of the extra fur, yuck!
Some outdoor kitties will then try to eat grass, which helps us throw up, but most of us indoor kitties don't have our very own patch of indoor grass. Our humans can help us by going to those human "stores" and getting little containers of sweet grass or oat grass, my Mom always has a little kitty-safe garden for me and my sister Daphne.
Our humans can get very scared by the noises we make when we need to hack up that furball, some kitties make noises that can sound like this:
Now, most cats don't have big problems with hairballs, and we can get them either up, or out, very quickly. But sometimes, we have problems and, as much as we don't like it, we need help... and sometimes need to be brought to the Vet. (shudder!) Cats who have longer hair are more apt to have hairball problems than short haired cats. My sister Daphne is a Tuxedo cat, and her fur it very long and silky so she has more hairball issues than I do.
Furballs can look like food with hair in them, or they can look like a little ball or elongated ball of fur. Sometimes our humans can see that we passed them in our litter-box, or, sadly (for them) on the floor usually found with are feet in the dark. Occasionally, you can actually see the balls of hair in the vomit, but sometimes our stomachs are so upset, we can only throw up our food, and in bad cases, little white bubbly fluid (bile).
Sometimes, these furballs can cause some really big problems, and they can actually cause a block in our intestinal tract. This makes it impossible for us to either vomit or eliminate (go to the littlitter boxhis is when it becomes serious, and can even kill us. My vet says that at least twenty-five percent of all "impaction cases" (when something gets "stuck" in the digestive tract) are due to hairballs. Here are the signs of a major hairball problem, and possible impaction that our Humans need to watch out for:
If our Humans suspect that their cat is impacted, you must being us in to see our Veterinarians immediately. even if we hate going there. Our Vets have several options to resolve impactions and help up us to get rid of them, but serious blockages may require surgical removal, wow... scary for us and scary for our Humans.
Remember, us kitties can have occasional hairball episodes (1-4 times a month) and that is normal for most cats. But if we change our habits, or are having problems, you need to get us to the Vet. When cats start vomiting more than just an occasional bout for furballs, and/or if we start vomiting more than usual, or your cats are vomiting repeatedly, especially directly after eating or drinking, or we can't use the litter box - these can be signs of a completely unrelated medical problem and the you need to bring us to the Vet right away.
All Humans should know where the nearest 24 hour emergency Vet is, and have their number posted next to their phones, so they don't have to waste time looking for one.
There is some good news... our Humans can help us prevent most bad cases of furballs!