There’s nothing quite like being woken up at 2am to the oh-so-unpleasant sound of your cat producing a large hairball at the foot of your bed. Or perhaps quite so unsettling as stepping in it the following morning. Hairballs, also known by the fancy and somewhat horrifying name of ‘trichobezoar’, are something that most cat owners will have to deal with at some point. But how do they form and how can we help prevent them?
What is a hairball anyway?
A hairball is pretty much what it says on the tin – a ball of hair. Except it isn’t often in the shape of a ball, more cigar-shaped due to its passage through the oesophagus on the way out. They’re usually quite small, a few cm in length, but can be quite impressive at times. Cats have tiny barbs on their tongue that are perfect for picking up dead hairs in the coat. When the cat grooms itself, it swallows a significant amount of hair which usually passes without issue in the stools but sometimes accumulates in the stomach instead. Hairballs are, as one might expect, more common in long-haired cats and older, more experienced groomers who have more time to spend cleaning themselves each day. They also tend to occur seasonally, at times of increased shedding. Sounds like a pretty normal process, and in fact, it’s not uncommon for most cats to have a hairball once or twice a year (a spring clear-out of the stomach if you will…). But are they really ‘normal’?….