Hairballs are caused by a cat swallowing hair when it grooms itself. Most of the hair is passed through the intestinal tract. However, some of the hair stays in the stomach and aggregates into a hairball. Young kittens don’t typically have hairball issues for two reasons. First, they don’t lose much hair when they groom, and therefore, they don’t swallow much hair. Second, their digestive tract is more active and moves the hair through more easily. As cats age, they tend to shed more hair; thus causing them to swallow more hair. Also, they are unable to pass the hair through their digestive tract as efficiently. As a consequence, the hair sits in the stomach and aggregates into a hairball. The hairball irritates the stomach causing the cat to retch. Typically, the cat is able to successfully rid itself of the hairball by vomiting it up.
Hairballs are a normal part of a cat’s life. They don’t usually cause many problems, other than to the owner who has to clean up the mess. However, on rare occasions, a hairball will sit in a cat’s stomach so long that it hardens. This can cause blockage and can become life-threatening. Again, this is a rare occurrence, but one to be aware of.
So, what can you do about hairballs? There are some hairball remedy products available. These products work by binding up the hair and increasing the digestive tract activity to aid in passing the hairball. They work well and I recommend using them for geriatric cats who have reoccurring issues with hairballs.