Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hairballs, anyone?

So this is probably going to rank up there as one of the stupidest things I've posted to LIT SOUP, but as I know that there are numerous cat owners out there, I figured, what the hell...

Here is the stupid question:

How can you tell if your cat has a hairball obstruction?

I ask for several reasons. First off, Zoe has been walking around for the past few weeks, making weird coughing/choking/snuffling noises, every so often. She makes the weird noises, sometimes for as long as five minutes at a time, and then stops. Nothing ever comes out of her mouth; no vomit, no hairballs, no nothing. I have consulted with my friend Mary on the subject, and Mary has offered the useful advice that a cat coughing up a hairball sounds like, "They're trying to vomit up an alien". Ok, all well and good. Zoe's noises could be that, I suppose. But once again, we have the fundamental fact that no hairballs EVER emerge.

We thought to solve the weird noise problem by giving her cat grass, which she likes quite a bit, and enjoys chewing/sucking on. Certainly she must be getting more fiber this way, we thought. Yet the noises continue.

Now, for the last few days, she hasn't been eating very much at all, and today she ate almost nothing. She's been tired and lethargic at times; certainly not totally up to her lively kitten self. She won't really touch her dry kitten food (which prior to the last few days, she loved), and she only ate a little bit of the wet kitten food, when we gave it to her tonight. She will eat treats still.

Is it possible that she has a hairball stuck somewhere? Should I be rushing her to the vet tomorrow morning? And most importantly of all, if she does have a hairball, why oh why doesn't she vomit it up? Don't cats have a notoriously easy-to-trigger vomit reflex? And if so, why does Zoe's vomit reflex seem broken?

23 comments:

Cathy in AK said...

We have a cat who makes similar "coughing up an alien" sounds but doesn't always produce a hairball. He tends to barf up unchewed food, but that's because he's a bolt it down kind of eater.

It could be an obstruction in your kitty, or some viral thing, so if she isn't eating and isn't eliminating, get her checked out soon. Dehydration hits hard and fast in small creatures.

Good luck!

Kristin B said...

Once the cat isn't eating, I would say yeah, take her to the vet. Our cat got a few colds when we first got him, so it could be part of the adjustment period--but you still want to make sure she's ok.

Our cat choke-coughs once in a very great while, but he usually ends up throwing up. The thing is, I've never seen him cough up a hairball--and he has very long hair (people always think he's a Himalayan, but he's not; he's just a very beautiful "mutt").

We've fed him a "Hairball-reducing" treat every day since we've got him, so that's what I attribute it to.

James Dashner said...

Jenny, as I told you, I've never owned a cat because of my mom's freakish phobia of felines. So, while I can't tell you anything about hairballs, I can let you in on a good way to make sure your mother doesn't crash your high school party.

Michelle Moran said...

If she has no appetite after two days I would take her in, especially if she isn't drinking water. Just as humans can have a wide variety of problems that would cause loss of appetite, so can cats. When you check her litter box, you will have a further indication of what's happening. Diarrhea could mean coronavirus or enteritis (both serious) or even something else. Conversely, constipation (I know... all gross) has all of the symptoms you describe and treatment is relatively simple (like enemas - yuck!).

I'd say the safest thing to do is take her in if she's not eating tomorrow.

kiwi said...

Jenny, don't wait, go to the vet asap!

I lost two kittens, and they both had similar symptoms to what you have described. The vet told me that had I acted sooner they could have been saved. Don't make my mistake.

Anonymous said...

I agree, take her to the vet.

In future, if she's having trouble coughing up a furball, put a dab of Vaseline on her nose. She'll lick it off and it will help her ease out the ball (seriously. We had a vet recommend this like 20 years ago now but it did work.)

---December Quinn.

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Yeah, I'd take her in. The gagging, no big deal, they'll do that for a while. Sometimes it's multiple little hairballs that they bring up and then manage to swallow and pass--wow, that's disgusting.

But the lethargic and off her feed in combination with the gagging is enough that it wouldn't hurt to take her in. With any luck, you'll be paying the vet to give you some peace of mind and she'll be fine.

Chris said...

Yeah, often they get it up and, charmingly, swallow it back down. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You should take her in, if it isn't a hardship.

We get a bottle of goop from the vet - like $20 or so, I think it is called laculose - that we shoot down her throat every so often, to lube things up in either direction.

Linda said...

Do take her to the vet. If it's hairball, he'll recommend something for it. If it's something else, he'll take care of that, too.

In the meantime, try brushing kitty with a brush regularly to remove the shedding hair. At the very least, it'll cut down on the shedding hair and kitty will like the attention; if she is having a problem with hairballs, it'll remove some of the problem

Jodi said...

Call the vet. Chances are, the receptionist can tell you if this is something to be worried about. If it is, they'll tell you to come in. If not, no worries, no $100 spent on a vet visit.

Kippy is a longhaired cat, and has had *cough* a couple hairballs. She doesn't like the goo that you can feed them to loosen things up in there, so we buy her hairball remidy kibble. It seems to work fairly well. If Zoe shows issues with hairballs, that might be something to look into. :)

Don't you just *love* waking up in the middle of the night to that hacking sound, and wonder what kind of surprise you'll find in the morning? :S

Molly said...

Take her to the vet! She's coughing, lethargic and not eating, even worse, probably not getting enough water either -- that is a sick cat.

DanStrohschein said...

We have four felines in our household, and the number one rule with them is - if they go off their food, something is wrong. Lethargic kittens is an oxymoron - they play hard and sleep hard, but never just lay around. Take Zoe into the vet, and please let us cat lovers know the outcome!

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of when one of my cats swallowed some nylon cord. She had trouble passing it, and lost her appetite for a while. I didn't know what it was, so the vet did x-rays, which didn't show anything, but they gave her something that helped it pass through and she was okay in a couple days. Could your kitten have gotten into some string or something that would be easy to swallow, but hard to digest?

My cats have never had trouble with their hairballs. It sounds awful when they're hacking them up, but it's over pretty quickly.

Kim said...

I would at least call the vet and see what they think. It could be that in her kitten curiousity, she ate something she shouldn't have, and that's what's giving her the problem. Better safe than sorry and rest assured, you're not the only one to ever call and ask, 'should I be concerned and should I bring her in?'. (I once had to run my dog to an animerge because a bee stung him on the nose and he reacted to the venom. This was at midnight & two hours later I was in Stop and Shop buying benadryl for him. Lot of weird people in stop and shop at that time of night!)

There is also an anti-hairball ointment that you rub on a cat's nose - but I can't remember what it's called. I used to use it on my cat many years ago and it works well.

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm with the "take her to the vet" crowd. A small cat's condition can deteriorate alarmingly in a short time.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Zoe and I shall be visiting the vet today, so hopefully they will figure out what's wrong with her.

Killer Yapp said...

Even I, no friend of cats, hope Zoe makes a full recovery. Should exercise be called for as part of her therapy I will be happy to motivate her to run fast.

Tess said...

My cats do the gagging thing from time to time.It could also be constipation - especially with the not eating - this happened to one of my now dearly departed cats. Please let us know what the vet said. Purrs for Zoe from Chloe and Cleo.

BernardL said...

Our two cats have no trouble with hairballs. They deposit them anytime and anywhere they feel like. :)

Southern Writer said...

I'm so glad I read this! I have a cat who does the same thing, and it took several trips to the vet to diagnose the problem - asthma! Does she pant after one of these choking episodes, or seem to have trouble breathing sometimes? Does her little tummy spasm constantly? If she has any of these symptoms and your vet doesn't know what do for her (several didn't in my case, and it was an assistant who advised the treatment), suggest a daily combination of lasix, theophylline, and prednisone. One expands the bronchial tubes, one dries up the fluid in the lungs, and of course, the prednisone is a steriod which assists the other two and increases the appetite. Our vet warned us our cat might not live two years, but we've had him for four so far, and as long as he gets his pills, he's fine. If this turns out to be the problem, you can buy them online frm Canada much cheaper than from the vet, but you have to buy a large quantity.

I hope Zoe feels better soon. I'll be waiting to see what the vet says. You'll let us know, right?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes they get that way after eating a rodent or two. Do you have field mice in your home?

As much as we love them, they still have a hunting instinct and they are predators to their core, the fuzzy little things.

JessicaH said...

Sure would be nice to see a follow-up post as to what the vet found out in the case of the coughing cat in 2007- was it a stuck hairball? and what solved the problem? It is 2010, a search engine brought me here, when trying to diagnose my cat's problem. I read all the comments and then find that no diagnosis was shared! Thanks!

JessicaH said...

I sure wish the diagnosis of the coughing cat was shared. After reading all the comments, it would be nice to know what happened to this cat, and to share the solution to help others.

My cat used to cough up hairballs quite often, has been losing weight this past year, and now is making a strange noise when breathing after trying very hard to cough up a hairball this past week. I now realize that he hadn't coughed up an actual hairball in a very long time, and that perhaps one is stuck. I'm taking him to the vet in the morning, but it still would be nice to know what types of diagnoses fit these problems. Thanks.