Life-Threatening Risks of Hairballs

18 October 2018
 Categories: , Blog


Hairballs might seem like they're a fact of life—and a nasty one—when you own a cat. The reality is, however, healthy cats should never produce hairballs. Hairballs are more than just gross; they can leave your cat extremely ill or even dead. Here's what you need to know about the dangers of hairballs.

Choking Hazard

If your cat frequently has hairballs, you no doubt know that they often struggle to cough them up. This is because the hair is being coughed up because it has formed a minor blockage. If it was too much for your cat's intestines or bowel to handle, it may be too wide or thick for their esophagus as well.

If your cat tries to throw up a very large blockage, it could end up blocking their airway. Without medical intervention, this could quickly become a life-threatening situation.

Loss of Appetite

When cats develop hairballs, they take up space in your cat's digestive system, regardless of where they are. This can cause some intense discomfort for your cat.

If the problem goes on long enough or the blockage is big enough, your cat may be so uncomfortable that they lose interest in eating. This is often because adding more bulk to the intestines makes a cat's pain worse.

It's not a good idea for your cat to skip eating for a long period of time. This can not only contribute to unwanted weight loss and muscle wasting, but it could also trigger fatty liver disease, a condition that develops when your cat's body tries to burn too much stored fat at once for energy.

Excrement Blockage

Finally, if your cat's body has a severe enough blockage, it may prevent your cat from using the litter box. This is usually something that happens if the hairball is so severe that it can't come back up and be vomited out.

If your cat isn't able to use the litter box, it can also induce extreme pain and make them lose interest in eating. However, it also means that they will literally run out of space for processed food to go. If your cat has this problem, their condition will only get worse until a veterinarian surgically or manually removes the blockage.

If your cat has hairballs regularly, develop a plan with your veterinarian to nip this problem in the bud. Regular groomings and medication can help to diminish the risk of hairballs. Don't let it get to the point where your cat is physically suffering because of the hair they've consumed.