You’ve probably come across a bubbly pool of what looks like spit with a few blades of grass arranged decoratively in it and wondered what it was.  

You may have witnessed your cat as its whole body seems to concertina up while it makes an ‘ack ack’ sound and then it produces a sausage shaped greyish brown mess. The greyish brown mess may look like a regurgitated mouse or bird but it’s only a hairball.  

The technical name for a hairball is trichobezoar which is a rather frightening word for a common occurrence. However, hairballs can have their dark side and must be treated with respect.

Your cat will spend a good portion of his day asleep. For a short part of his day he will go out and about (if he is an outdoor cat) and probably chance his paw on catching small scurrying furry things and perhaps even eating one or two en route to avail himself of a neighbour’s generosity before returning through his own cat flap and plonking himself down in front of his own bowl and whining plaintively as if he’s never been fed in his entire life. And a seemingly small part of his day is spent grooming fastidiously.

Cats’ tongues are ingeniously crafted with little spikes which act as the perfect tool for grooming their fur, removing loose hair, debris and even small insects hitching a free ride and dinner. A lot of fur is swallowed and probably most of the time it will make its way down through the intestines and is eliminated out of the body. But there may be an occasion when, for some inexplicable reason, a hairball will form in the abdominal area and that is when your cat may suddenly seem off colour, out of sorts, and off his food.  He may, if he has access to grass, have a chomp on a few blades of grass and then come indoors to be sick. Fortunately cat sick is not as gross as human sick; there are no diced carrots to worry about but it is nevertheless something that shouldn’t be ignored.

How can you, the caring pet owner, help your cat? From the time your cat comes to live with you a grooming routine can be established. For long-haired cats this is essential anyway but even short haired cats will grow to like being groomed and for all cats this is a special time between them and their human carers as it fosters and deepens the bonding process.

There are many tools available to groom your cat, brushes, combs, even ones that will pick out those pesky fleas and if you try to spend even a short time each day gently brushing your cat, you will help to eliminate the hairballs. Your cat will still groom himself and he will still swallow fur but less will build up in his intestines to cause any problems.

Most houses have central heating and the twice yearly moult, which household pets usually experience, seems to have blurred at the edges so that they seem to moult all year round now. Just a short daily grooming helps to reduce the excess fur. This will also help reduce how much fur is deposited on your furniture and the hysterical laughter you feel bubbling up inside you when an impromptu visitor goes home with a ginger bottom having sat on Marmalade’s favourite chair! Although cats don’t do gratitude he will be quite chuffed that he isn’t producing sausage shaped hairballs on your carpet and you’ll be relieved that an expensive operation at the vets isn’t looming. It is important to say that if you do notice your cat is off his food and he is being sick (without producing a hairball) a visit to the vet might be a good idea just to rule out that something else more sinister isn’t going on.

There are several products on the market which you can give to your cat to help aid his digestion and also help eliminate fur balls. Katalax is one such product which you can buy direct from

Grooming your cat, spending time gently brushing or combing him, and talking in a gentle voice, will become something that your cat will look forward to. I used to show Ricky the brush and he’d waddle over to me, lie on his back and show me his belly. Once he was satisfied his underparts had been suitably combed, he’d wobble over onto his belly so that I could comb and brush his back. Starting at the top of his head, I’d work slowly down his back and then do his tail. Every now and then, he’d stretch out his chin and I’d have to do under his chin. He’d purr non-stop while I’d be telling him what a handsome boy he was and that Mummy loves him. Then when he’d decided he was gorgeous enough he’d look at me, give me a gentle head-butt in gratitude and waddle off to the sofa where he’d continue with a thorough wash. Sticking his back leg behind his ear, he’d give his nether regions the licking of their lives before settling down to a well earned sleep. 

But just getting into the habit of a few minutes a day (for a short-haired cat – a long haired cat like a Persian will take considerably longer) will help your cat so that the awful ‘ack ack’ sound will be a thing of the past, and a sausage shaped hairball won’t grace your carpets. 

You might also be interested in the article on Kitty Grass

© Pauline Dewberry July 2010

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

Sponsored Advert