Owning a cat can already be a hairy situation. Add one of those pesky hairballs and you have a little bit of a disaster. Now, hairballs are not exactly like the ones depicted in cartoons, but they're still gross and seem to cause your cat discomfort. What are they and how do you deal with them?
Let's start with the actual shape of a hairball. Unlike their name, hairballs aren't balls. Their normally cylindrical in shape. They're also mixed with bile. Not a nice picture, right? What are they then? Hairballs are undigested hair. They form when cats groom themselves; the strands of dead hair sticking to their tongues and getting swallowed accidentally. Naturally cats who groom a lot and have longer fur are more likely to get hairballs.
Are they dangerous? Hairballs are normal and most cats will cough on up at least once a week. Aside from being gross, they don't really pose a serious risk. However, sometimes your cat could struggle to cough up the hairball and swallow it instead. It can enter their digestive tract and cause blockage. If your cat suddenly stops eating and becomes lethargic, take them to the vet immediately as they may need surgery to remove the hairball.
Naturally you would want to prevent hairballs to avoid a situation that could lead to the vet. Plus, no one wants undigested hair coughed up on their carpet. How do you deal with them? Start by grooming your cat frequently. This will help to remove the dead hair before your cat can swallow it. You can also give them remedies to help dissolve the hair. Make sure that you check with a vet before giving them one of the remedies. Rather give them something vet approved than something that could cause problems.
There's no need then to worry much about these pesky “balls”. They're rarely a risk but you can take steps to prevent them. Regular grooming and keeping your floor clean will also reduce hairballs from forming. Lastly, if you don't want an accident to happen on your carpet or sofa, try to prevent your cat from sleeping on them. Other than that, hairballs are harmless and just a result of a cat who likes to keep themselves clean.