Editor’s note: Hairball Awareness day is the final Friday of April each year.
Today is National Hairball Awareness Day. If I only had a penny for every hairball my cats have produced during their lifetimes and mine, I’d be rich!
I don’t need to tell you that hairballs are nothing to celebrate, and that’s not the point of National Hairball Awareness Day. Hairballs can be symptoms of more serious health issues.
My cat Monty disliked throwing up hairballs more than I disliked cleaning them up. I always knew when he was about to hack one up because he would let out the most mournful cry and start backing up, as if to get away from the soon-to-appear hairball. Poor Monty was a long-haired cat, and even though I brushed him frequently, he was not immune to hairballs.
If you’re quick enough, you can move your cat to the floor where it might be easier to clean up the hairball. Of course, if your floor is carpeted, it might be easier to let the cat puke on your blanket because you can throw it in the washer.
It makes perfect sense that cats get hairballs. They spend a lot of time grooming and they swallow hair in the process. Typically the hair goes in one end and comes out the other. But sometimes hair remains and collects in the stomach or small intestine and can cause a potentially life-threatening blockage in the digestive system. Don’t wait to contact your veterinarian if your cat continues to gag, retch or vomit without producing a hairball, loses his appetite, has diarrhea or constipation, or is lethargic.
Soon after adopting my cat Toby, I brought him to the veterinarian because he kept trying to bring up a hairball — or so I thought. Guess what? He didn’t have a hairball; he had asthma and needed medication to control it.
Hopefully your cat merely has hairballs — as yucky as they are. But seriously, there are things you can do to help your cat avoid hairballs.
Brush your cat regularly so he swallows less hair when he grooms and ask your veterinarian about giving a hairball lubricant or switching to a food formulated to reduce hairballs. If your cat grooms to the point of causing bald areas and irritation to his skin, schedule a veterinary exam. Your cat could have a skin problem, allergies, or parasites that require treatment.
Your cat could also be stressed if he’s bored or the household routine has changed. Learn more about making your cat’s world less stressful. Maybe he’ll reciprocate with fewer hairballs.
In honor of National Hairball Awareness Day, I’ve composed a song (sung to the tune of “Memory” from Cats).
Hairballs, he threw up a big hairball
It’s all over the sofa
It’s all over the chair
I remember a time when I could sit anywhere
Now, with hairballs, that is rare
Hairballs, you can tell when they’re coming
Your poor cats starts upchucking
And he runs here and there
I remember a time when I could walk with feet bare
Now with hairballs, I don’t dare
Day is dawning
I step on something mushy
Crap, I scream, this is like a bad dream
But it’s so real and it’s gushy
Hairballs, oh to live without hairballs
I would be very happy, I would be very glad
But without my dear kitty I would be very sad
So, it’s hairballs in my pad
How you do you deal with hairballs? Have you changed your cat’s diet? Do you make up songs about them? Are you going to celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day? Let us know in the comments!
Read more about hairballs on Catster:
About the author: Nancy Peterson is a registered veterinary technician and award-winning writer. She joined The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal protection organization, in 1998 and is currently the Cat Programs Manager. She lives in Maryland with her cats Luna, adopted from a feline rescue; Toby, adopted from an animal shelter; and Jenny, a feral kitten she fostered. Check out the HSUS cat information at humanesociety.org/cats and humanesociety.org/outdoorcats.