In TV shows and cartoons, it is a common scene for a cat to lick itself, cough, and throw up a hairball. Most of the time, this scene gives the viewers the idea of what are cat hairballs.
Cats are one of the most adorable companions to take care of. Anyone who has a cat will tell you about some of the odd behaviors their furbaby often do that is weird and cute at the same time, and they may mention “hairballs”
One of the weirdest habits cats often do is licking themselves. Discovering your cat licking their hair while you are chilling at home can surprise you, especially if you are a new cat owner. And this will lead you to wonder, “why does my cat lick her own that can result in a hairball?”
Read on to find out what is causing this behavior and how you can stop your cat from making hairballs.
Table of Contents
What is a Hairball?
How Common are Hairballs?
Hairballs in cats are as common as their nature of grooming themselves. Whether they have long or short fur, a hairball problem can arise. Keep in mind that long-haired breeds such as Persians have the highest tendency toward hairballs.
If the regurgitated hairball comes with vomit and becomes more frequent or persistent, it is time to seek medical help from your veterinarian.
Causes of Hairball
Now that we know what a hairball is, let’s get into what causes it. There are many physical and psychological reasons why cats end up having hairballs. Here are the following:
1. Feline Pica
Pica is a scientific way of describing an eating behavior where pets consume items that have no nutritional value. It normally manifests when cats eat non-food items such as plastic, clothing, rubber, paper, and various non-edible items around the house, including fur.
A pica habit may also appear in cats if they were weaned too early. The younger a kitten is detached from its mother, the higher the chance the cat is to swallow hair. Early weaning is believed to assist in encouraging oral type behaviors such as chewing hair and sucking on their pet parents.
If your cat is anxious, or stressed, chewing their hair or pet parent’s hair can be a way for them to feel comfort by the bond you share, which will help soothe her anxiety. Some people believe that eating fur in cats can be related to self-soothing behavior, comparable to thumb sucking in children.
Many breeds are known for chewing shoelaces, destroying papers, and many other destructive actions. You typically see this in breeds that exhibit lots of energy and require lots of attention. If the objects mentioned are nowhere near, cats will resort to chewing on their fur.
Some cat breeds that have long fur coats, such as Siamese, have the habit of grooming their coat often to the point of eating them. This can lead to greater chances of building up hairballs.
4. Medical Problems
Some diseases including brain tumors, feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, and diabetes, can trigger your cat to have the unusual urge to chew on their fur.
While these cases are rare, it is something to be aware of if your cat behaves abnormally and doesn’t appear to be able to stop eating its fur.
5. External Parasites
Cats suffering from different skin illnesses such as scabies and skin parasites such as fleas are more prone to licking themselves, resulting in more hair being swallowed.
6. Dietary Deficiencies
Cats tend to eat plants and other edible things around the house if they lack proper nutrition, specifically fiber if they have a stomach ache to induce vomiting. Your cat may consume their fur to supply the lacking fiber in their diet.
7. Compulsive Chewing
If your cat’s hair eating habit becomes more severe and more frequent, then your fur baby may have become a compulsive chewer. This can easily be identified if catnips, feather toys, and treats are not enough to distract your cat from chewing.
Once you have experienced this behavior, consult your veterinarian immediately to help you identify possible triggers that provoke chewing, or if the trigger has now moved into a response your cat needs to fulfill.
One of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism (hyperactivity of the thyroid) in cats is the sudden urge to chew on their fur. This disease is usually common in older cats around the age of 12 and 13 years old.
If you have a senior cat showing this behavior and other symptoms such as sudden weight loss and an excessive appetite, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
How To Treat If Your Cat Has Hairballs
If your cat is frequently coughing up hairballs, contact your veterinarian immediately. Here are some hairball treatments that you might consider:
This is a palatable oral gel that can help bind hair in the stomach and make it easier for the hair to pass through your cat’s intestinal tract.
2. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hairball Diets
Certain cat food formulas are marketed to help prevent hairballs. These diets are usually high in fiber and help keep the gastrointestinal motility normal.
3. Prescription Diets
If your cat has difficulty expelling hairballs, reach out to your cat’s veterinarian about options for prescription diets or food additives that may be helpful.
How To Stop Your Cat From Getting Hairballs
1. See if there are stressful situations.
Cats will often begin this hair licking behavior during stressful and anxious times, such as having a new pet or a new home. Consider if any significant changes have recently occurred in your cat’s life that may have triggered the fur eating behavior.
Scenarios that a cat might find stressful may not be the same things you find stressful. Common triggers include having visitors over, having a loud noise nearby, or seeing other cats through a window.
2. Provide a distraction
One of the best ways to get your cat to leave their fur alone is by giving other desirable treats such as catnip, toys, or treats. Physical exercise and mental stimulation are also great ways to distract your cat.
Five to ten minutes of daily exercise can eliminate unwanted behaviors in your cat by reducing stress and anxiety. You might consider using a laser light or a feather wand to get your cat moving while sitting on your couch.
3. Help your cat cope
If stress is the major reason for the fur-eating, try to find ways to help your furbaby cope with the situations that are causing it.
One way is to provide a safe space with everyday items that may ease the stress of being in a new home while spending more time together to relieve the anxiety.
Another way to help your cat relieve stress is by investing in feline pheromone products such as wipes, sprays, collars, and diffusers. These chemicals mimic the pheromones given off by cats, helping them to cope with things beyond our control.
Hairballs are normal in cats, but, if you notice that it is making your furbaby uncomfortable and in distress, immediate action is needed. Remember that getting rid of this behavior may take time, thus requires patience and consistency.
Now, if you have tried and tested our guide first hand, did you encounter any challenges? Please let the pet parent community know in the comments below!