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From time to time we come back home and we find rather disgusting hair-balls vomited by our Maine Coon.

From what I read these are hair-balls and it might be normal that the cat vomits them. However I don't know if at some point I have to worry.

  • The cat has to eliminate the hair-balls. Is it normal to vomit them?
  • Does an increase in frequency means that something else is wrong, like a change in the food?
  • What can I do to prevent these vomits? (annoying for the cat I assume)
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes, there are things to do. Maine coons have long or semi-long hair and there's three layers of it. Regular grooming done by you helps a long way in reducing the amount of hair the cat swallows when it grooms itself.

The cat grooms itself anyway, so there will be hair swallowed even if you try to keep loose hair at minimum. However, small amounts of hair can travel through the cat's intestines, which is usually harmless, but may create another problem; blocked bowels. There is special food sold in pet stores, that you can mix in with the regular food, designed to help with keeping the cat's intestines free of hair blocks. The food contains high amount of fiber and it works by increasing the volume of feces going through while making it softer as well. I have to say this special food is not my personal favourite, though it seems to work as designed.

So, we can't totally prevent a cat from swallowing hair. Swallowed hair is more safe to come out vomited than pooped. One way to help a cat vomit is to grow fresh grass for the cat to eat. Outdoors cats usually find enough vomitable stuff during their out time, but for indoors cats you should have a small growth of grass available, your cat will eat it as much or little as the cat likes. Pet stores usually sell both seeds and ready planted boxes that only need watering. I prefer buying seeds and growing the grass myself, for no other reason but for fun.

All's well then? What if your cat is losing a lot more hair than is normal? There could be a skin issue, or parasites inside or outside the cat, or a food allergy making your cat lose hair that ends up swallowed and then vomited. Losing hair is normal, but losing a lot of hair is a sign that the cat is not in full health. If unsure whether it is normal or not, you should take the cat to a vet for check-up.

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I started brushing my maine coon every day after the second hairball I found. Haven't seen any more since. –  Matt S. Apr 11 at 14:10
    
It's worth noting that no matter what you do, cats are going to throw some hairballs. You can reduce the frequency, you can (with a lot of gentle patience and a lot of time) teach them that you'd rather they do it on the floor ... but you should expect to periodically need to do a bit of cleanup. Between my two cats, I think I'm averaging once or twice a month. It seems to bother us more than it bothers the cats... just as swallowing the fur in the first place seems to bother them less than it would us. –  keshlam Apr 11 at 15:10

Cats in the wild spend their days moving though the jungle brush and the like which has a bushing action, removing excess hair.

Although you see their hair all over your home, house cats don't receive the same level of environmental hair removal so they need to be brushed or they will consume more hair than they can sometimes accommodate.

You should brush a short hair cat at least once a week. A long haired cat at least twice a week. If you cat still has hairballs try brushing them more often or more thoroughly. I like to use this brush as it really pulls out the dead hair, like this one on Amazon.

You have to be gentle when using it. Some cats don't like the way it feels though, so you may have to find a different type of brush.

Some cats gently cough up hair balls, some just make a bit of a wheezing sound, some actually vomit. Vomiting may be due to be a physiological quirk for the particular cat. It wouldn't hurt to have a vet take a look at your cat to ensure there is nothing else wrong. I had a couple of cats that would vomit rather than cough. The vets could find nothing wrong and both cats lived to be about 17.

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In addition to brushing, my vet has suggested I mix in a little cod-liver oil (or any available kind of edible oil) with her (dry) food once in a while. It's supposed to help the cat pass the hair.

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