Our 2 year old cat Lucky vomited up a ball of hair a few days ago. This is not the first time she’s either vomited or coughed as if she were trying to spit up something. She seems fine otherwise. Is she sick and is there anything we can do for her?
It sounds like Lucky may be having problems with hairballs. Sheís probably a very good groomer. Cats spend nearly 1/3 of their waking hours grooming and cleaning themselves. While this natural instinct makes them tidy house pets, it can lead to uncomfortable and serious side effects -- hairballs. The problem is a little more common in long-haired cats.
Hairballs begin when a cat swallows its own hair as it cleans itself. Its tongue has tiny barbed-like projects that pull loose hair from its coat. Because of the inward angle of the barbs, the hair stays lodged on the tongue until the cat swallows it. Hair is largely an insoluble protein not easily broken down by a catís digestive system. The undigested hair knots in the stomach interfering with digestion and elimination.
Luckyís vomiting and dry cough are classic signs that hairballs are developing in her digestive system. Some cats also will act lethargic and become constipated. (Hairballs are the most common cause of depression and loss of appetite in cats.) The hair also is present in the catís stool, on the inside of the feces.
Lucky has been lucky so far. The condition has not made her sick but it could in the future if the hair completely obstructs part of the intestine. Although such a serious development is uncommon, it is very dangerous and requires surgical removal of the obstruction.
The best prevention is the regular use of a laxative which contains a lubricant and diatase, an enzyme. Both ingredients aid in digestion and elimination of the hairball. Consult your veterinarian about what type of laxative to use and how often. You should also discuss some of the newer diets that are available for cats that help in the prevention/elimination of hairballs.
You can help Lucky further by brushing or combing her daily especially during the shedding season. This will reduce the amount of hair she needs to remove with her own grooming.
It sounds like Luckyís problems will be easy to manage. With the brushing, judicious use of a laxative, and nutritional management, you should be able