The dreaded sound of a cat vomiting isn't something that any pet owner wants to hear, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. If you've seen your cat throwing up and are confused to have found something that looks more like a solid piece of poop than vomit, then your cat may have a problem on its paws. Here's what you need to know about this concerning issue.
Why It Looks Like That
When a cat normally vomits, their vomit should never resemble a solid piece of poop. Most cat vomit just looks like a puddle, as it's nothing but food and gastric juices.
When you hear your cat vomit and you find this strange thing, what you're looking at is a hairball. Despite the name, not all hairballs look like actual round balls, and the poop-shaped variant are particularly problematic.
What it Means
The reason your cat's hairball looks like this is because they've consumed a lot of hair. When a cat only has a little bit of hair in their stomach, a hairball tends to come up looking more like a ball. But when the vomit is badly wrapped in hair, it's harder for it to get up through the digestive tract. As a result, the esophagus's cramping squeezes it into something that looks like a piece of poop.
What to Do
It's important to understand that this kind of hairball is dangerous for your cat. They can potentially choke on one that's coming up. And under specific circumstances, this can actually kill.
The other problem is that even if your cat was successful in getting the hairball out, they may not have gotten all of the hair in their stomach out. Leftover hair can turn into a gastrointestinal blockage that's a serious risk to your cat's health and, like choking, can kill if it goes on for long enough without treatment.
As a result, if you notice your cat coughing one of these things up, you should take them to a vet. Your vet will be able to tell with a physical palpation exam if your cat has a blockage in their guts. In some cases, further diagnostic tools may be necessary, like ultrasound scans.
If a blockage is found, the bad news is that your cat will need surgery to remove it. The good news is, this kind of surgery is typically quite safe, and you may have just saved your cat's life by bringing them to the vet and finding this problem in time.
Speak with your veterinarian about this and any other pet care questions you may have.