Q: My cat has been spitting up hairballs for years. She usually only did it about once a month but it has increased to almost daily now. She eats good and doesn’t act sick but she can’t be happy vomiting all the time. My family is getting tired of stepping in cat puke. We tried lots of different foods and treats that were supposed to help with hairballs but nothing has helped.
A: Cats are fastidious groomers and they lick their hair to clean themselves. When they groom they ingest lots of loose hair. Most of the time the hair passes through their intestinal track and is eliminated in their feces. Sometimes a large ball of hair may accumulate in the stomach and be vomited up. Rarely a large ball of hair may get stuck in the intestines and have to be removed surgically.
If a cat is vomiting weekly or daily there is a problem. Many factors can be involved in hair balls. Cats that have long hair have more hair to groom and ingest and they are prone to more hairballs. Cats with food allergies or inhaled allergies will have itchy skin and more hairballs. Stressed cats will overgroom and ingest more hair.
Pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease can make it difficult for the cat’s system to eliminate ingested hair. External parasites can increase shedding, itching, and licking behavior.
It is important to take your cat to your veterinarian so that a complete physical examination can be done. Your veterinarian may need to do blood testing or radiology to determine the cause. Once a cause is found you can work on a specific treatment to stop the vomiting.
It is always good to brush and comb your cat more frequently and feed a diet high in fiber to help with eliminating hairballs. Try having your cat shaved to decrease the amount of hair that your cat is ingesting. Keep stress to a minimum by giving your cat places to climb and hide and enriching her life with play toys, sunning ledges, and scratching posts.