It isn't too complicated to figure out what a "hairball" is. It's a ball of hair usually expelled from your cat's stomach. Not too complicated, right? How they form and what to do about it may take a bit more effort. It's one of the more common nuisances that plague felines everywhere but it doesn't have to be a serious problem with a bit of prevention and care.
A hairball forms when a cat swallows hair while grooming themselves. The loose hair gets matted into a ball in the cat's stomach where it is usually passed with regular waste. However, this ball may occasionally get too big and cause some discomfort or internal problems for your feline friend. Some signs that a hairball might be causing irritation are constipation or hard stools full of hair, a dry and matted coat, a lack of appetite, or lethargic behavior. You may also witness the cat frequently hacking, especially after meals or you might find the hairballs - cigar-shaped masses of hair and undigested food – on the floor or furniture around your home.
Occasional hairballs, especially in long-haired breeds, are not harmful but if you witnesses these behaviors often or if your cat shows a change in diet or behavior, take him to the veterinarian to rule out another problem with similar symptoms. If you brush your cat regularly, it will remove loose hairs before your cat swallows them and is a chance for you and your cat to bond. Most cats enjoy a good brushing and won't mind the extra attention! Including fiber in their diet several times a week in the form of catnip or catgrass will also help clean out your cat's digestive system and cut down on the formation of hairballs. Commercial foods and treatments are available if needed, but always be sure to consult your vet before changing your cat's diet.
With a little care and prevention, hairballs don't have to be a major problem in your cat's life. By keeping him well-groomed and well-fed, you'll be able to form a bond that will last for years to come!