March 4, 2024


Cats vomit as a natural mechanism to remove the hair that accumulates in their stomach by licking. However, there may be signs that indicate that the expulsion of the fur is not being fluid enough: “When the cat is listless, has no appetite, has difficulties defecating, vomits or frequently coughs,” lists Onintza Aguado, technical director of the Veterinary Clinic. Monteprincipe of Madrid. The hair in the feline’s stomach is difficult to digest: “It gets tangled up in itself and the problems come when the excess fur is not vomited or defecated easily, which becomes surrounded by minerals and can become large, causing obstructions or constipation.” adds the vet.

Cats are very neat animals and tend to groom themselves a lot to keep themselves clean. “Their tongue has some spicules that drag the dead hair, hook it, swallow it and can no longer spit it out,” continues the expert. There are certain times of the year when the animal sheds, such as in the spring or fall, and it can accumulate more hair on its stomach. Although it must be borne in mind that not all kittens clean themselves equally. “This is the case of those who have joint mobility problems or who suffer from pain and stop grooming themselves,” adds the veterinarian, who mentions the difference between domestic cats and those that live abroad with respect to the accumulation of hairballs in stomach. “The former tend to suffer from it more than non-domestic cats, because they have a different diet, based on nibbling plants and eating birds or lizards, and when they vomit remains of feathers or bones, they also remove fur more easily.”

The length of the fur also influences the frequency with which they vomit hairballs. According to a study carried out in this regard by the researcher Marta Cannon from the Oxford Cat Clinic, published in Journal of Feline Medicine and Suggestion, 73% of short-haired cats never vomit hairballs, 17% do so once a year and the remaining 10% more than once during the year. According to this study, in the case of long-haired cats, 43% never vomit hair, 31% do it once a year and 26% vomit more frequently.

“It is convenient to know our cat to know the usual frequency with which it vomits hairballs and in case of any change, consult the veterinarian to rule out dermatological or digestive problems,” warns Marta Palmero, director of the Hospital Gattos center in Madrid and a specialist in feline medicine. She also distinguishes several situations regarding the vomiting of hairballs in cats, depending on their size: “They can be easily expelled or due to their size and length cause health problems, such as lesions in the esophagus or not being able to vomit, which causes stomach obstruction.”

A cat licking its paw.
A cat licking its paw. Westend61 (Getty Images/Westend61)

Contributing to the feline being able to expel the fur accumulated on its body with ease is possible with guidelines such as those recommended by the veterinarian Onintza Aguado:

  • A specific diet rich in fiber that promotes intestinal mobility and reduces hair loss, as well as providing a high concentration of antioxidants and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which keep the cat’s skin and hair healthy.
  • Provide a malt supplement, an ingredient derived from barley, which has slightly laxative properties to promote gastrointestinal transit. It is recommended twice a week in the case of short-haired cats and four to seven times a week for long-haired cats.
  • Daily brushing to remove dead hair, especially in the molting season (spring and autumn) and also in the case of cats with long fur. In short-haired cats, brushing can be done two to three times a week.
  • Put catnip at your disposal in case the kitten has access to the outside, because it allows you to purge when you need it and facilitates the expulsion of hair.

Unlike people or dogs, cats do not scratch when they have skin health problems, such as allergies. “When a cat’s body itches, it licks itself. His rough tongue manages to soothe the itch. Only in the event that he itches an area inaccessible to his tongue, for example, on the face, will he use his paws to scratch himself, ”explains the veterinarian Marisa Palmero. When it comes to controlling whether or not they are properly expelling hairballs, it must also be taken into account that cats increase their body licking in areas where they have discomfort: “For example, chronic pain in the abdomen due to the presence of stones in the gallbladder or pancreas, which makes them constantly lick themselves in that area,” says the expert.

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