Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?

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Why do cats get hairballs? A veterinarian explains.

As a cat pet parent, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had the delightful experience of stepping out of my warm bed onto a cold, squishy, slimy hairball! I guess that’s the price we have to pay for owning these wonderful, furry grooming machines!

Are Hairballs Normal?

Hairballs are entirely normal, as long your cat doesn’t develop more than 1-2 annually. When your cat grooms himself, tiny hook-like structures on his tongue that are called papillae catch loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of the hair passes all the way through the digestive track with no problems and is passed out in the feces. But some of the hair can remain in the stomach– gradually accumulating into a wet clump which becomes a hairball. The hairball can irritate the lining of the stomach, and, ultimately, your cat will vomit to get rid of it. Because hairballs pass through the narrow esophagus on the way out, they usually appear thin and tubelike, rather than round. For all you trivia buffs, the scientific name for a hairball is trichobezor (try-koe-beez-or). Try that word on your friends to be sure to impress!

By Dr. Matheys, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a U.S. cat health insurance agency since 2005. 

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