The dreaded hairball!

Considering that cats are constantly grooming themselves with their tongues, it isn’t remarkable that they get hairballs—rather, it’s remarkable that they don’t get more hairballs. If you’ve never seen one of these ugly objects, consider yourself lucky. It is just what it sounds like: a ball (or wad, to be more accurate) of the cat’s own hair, which lodges in the stomach, unable to pass through the digestive tract.

Some cats never get them (my own hasn’t—knock on wood); some cats get them rarely and vomit them up with no harm to themselves (though perhaps some harm to your upholstery or carpet). The reason owners need to monitor hairballs is that occasionally they can lead to serious digestive problems, sometimes requiring surgery. Pet store shelves are well stocked with hairball preventatives, and most of the pet food manufacturers now market certain foods as “hairball preventers.”
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