Here’s something that many cat owners can relate to.
You wake up in the morning feeling bright and chirpy. And on the way to the kitchen for your morning coffee, you stepped on something that feels soft and squishy.
As you lift up your feet expecting it to be some bug, turns out your cat has vomited up a huge hairball.
And to make matters worse, the hairball smells like poop.
When your cat has vomited up a hairball that smells like poop, it could be due to an intestinal blockage. It does not necessarily mean that medical attention is required but it could mean that your cat might have some problems with its digestive tract.
Let’s take a more detailed look at what causes hairballs and how you can manage better hairballs in your cat.
What Is A Hairball?
Cats are masters when it comes to personal hygiene. They keep themselves clean by licking and pulling dust and dirt off their fur.
During the grooming process, a lot of loose hair gets removed by the cat’s rough tongue which acts as a brush.
Many cats can spend hours a day grooming themselves as all as other cats in their home or community.
Most of the time, the cat will eliminate its ingested fur via cat poop.
But sometimes a hairball is formed when some of the ingested hair or fur gets trapped in the cat’s digestive tract. It is usually cylindrical shaped and looks like a hairy cigar.
The cat will usually get rid of the hairball by vomiting it up together with some food and brown liquid (stomach juices).
How Long Does It Take For A Cat To Pass A Hairball?
Cats have shorter intestines which allows them to eat raw meat with little risk of contamination.
For the digested hair to pass through from mouth to anus takes about 12 hours. In the event that your cat has a hairball in its gut, it can take up to two days for it to pass out the hairball.
Cat Hairball Blockage Symptoms
Even as a cat owner who has seen my cat vomit hairballs too many times, it is something that I can never get used to.
Seeing and hearing my cat gagging, hacking and retching when trying to get rid of a hairball cause me much distress.
But most of the time, cats can vomit up a hairball with no issue. However, if your cat has always had issues with hairballs, you need to know when your cat’s digestive tract is being obstructed by a hairball.
Here are some symptoms to look out for.
- Dry heaving frequently without any hairballs
- Lack of appetite
- Straining to poop in the litter box
Vomiting cats whose hairballs smell like feces is another indicator that there is some blockage in their digestive system.
This is because some part of your cat’s intestines has a mass of hairball that is stuck. This prevents newly formed hairballs from passing through to the cat’s anus and has to be removed by vomiting.
Dangers Of A Blocked Digestive Tract In Cats
Any cat that has a blockage in its digestive tract needs immediate medical attention. It is not a small matter and can end up killing the cat.
Even if the blockage doesn’t end up being fatal to the cat, walking around with a bloated and swollen intestine can be very painful and uncomfortable for the poor cat.
A cat with an intestinal blockage will get weaker over time. The blockage prevents the proper flow and absorption of nutrients in the cat’s intestine.
Treating An Intestinal Blockage In Cats
When your cat is at the vet, the doctor will conduct a series of tests like x-rays and ultrasounds to determine the cause of the blockage.
It could be due to a hairball or something wrong that your cat has eaten like a piece of string.
If it is a partial blockage, there’s a chance that it could be removed by medication and extra fluids. Otherwise, the only way would be surgery.
How Can I Prevent Intestinal Blockage In My Cat?
For pet owners whose cats have had a blockage before, there is a chance that it can reoccur. The below steps will also be good for general prevention.
Brush Your Cat Regularly
Cats shed a lot of hair and need to be brushed regularly. Regular brushing from you will prevent your cat from ingesting too much loose hair than can cause a blockage.
My cat is a short hair tabby and I’m brushing him almost every other day. There are certain breeds like the Maine Coon, Ragdoll and Persian that need to be brushed daily as they tend to shed more hair.
In general, long-haired cats need more grooming than short-haired cats.
Don’t start feeding your cats more fruits and vegetables for fiber. Cats don’t handle plant matter well which can result in more digestive issues.
If you wish to add more fiber to your cat’s regular diet, you can use fresh pumpkin or psyllium husk which are safe for cats.
A little amount goes a long way so about a quarter teaspoon every other day would work.
Some cats are fond of chewing on wheat grass. If your cat is one of them, it is safe for cats to consume wheatgrass or catgrass.
Feed A Better Diet
A good diet can help reduce the risk of intestinal blockage and hairballs. Dry cat food is really bad for cats as it lacks moisture and contains too much carbohydrates.
Start feeding your cat good quality canned food or a raw meat diet which is the most natural diet for cats.
Hydrate Your Cat
The lack of water can cause blockages in your cat, especially with hairballs. If your cat is drinking enough water, it can soften up the hairball making it easier to eliminate.
Start adding more water to your cat’s food.
Cats are desert animals hence they don’t have the habit of drinking enough water. Having more water in your cat’s diet can also prevent chronic kidney issues which are common for cats.
Laxatone is commonly prescribed by vets for cats with chronic hairball-related constipation. It is an oral gel that helps to improve the bowel movements of a cat.
Laxatone can take up to two weeks to work so it isn’t an instantaneous remedy.
My Cat Has Been Vomiting Regularly
Most cats vomit for a number of reasons besides having a hairball. It could be due to consuming spoilt food, eating some inedible or just having a bad stomach day.
But if your cat has been vomiting regularly of late for no apparent reason, it would be best to bring it to the vet for a thorough checkup.
The vet will run a blood test to see if there is an underly medical condition that is making your cat vomit.
It is better to get your cat treated for an illness or disease than wait for it to get worse.
As most cat owners would say, hairballs are part and parcel of owning a cat. It isn’t possible to totally eliminate hairballs from your cat unless it is a Sphynx.
Regular grooming is usually good enough to prevent unnecessary hairballs for most cats. But in the event that your cat has an intestinal blockage, please bring it to the vet ASAP.