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Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention of Hairballs in Cats

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention of Hairballs in Cats

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If you own a cat, you know the struggle of dealing with hairballs. The hacking sounds and the mess can be unpleasant, but did you know that hairballs can sometimes be serious? In this article, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of hairballs in cats to help you better understand and manage this common issue.

Causes Of Hairballs In Cats

Cats groom themselves using their rough tongues, which helps remove loose hairs from their coats. However, some of these hairs end up getting swallowed. Usually, the hair passes through their digestive tract without any issues. But sometimes, it collects in the stomach or intestines, forming a mass known as a “trichobezoar.” Your cat then vomits up this mass of matted hair, resulting in a hairball.

Certain factors can increase a cat’s risk of developing hairballs. Cats that shed a lot, groom frequently, or have long hair are more prone to hairball formation. Additionally, any condition that leads to excessive grooming, such as skin conditions, allergies, or flea infestations, can also contribute to hairballs.

Symptoms & Treatment Of Hairballs In Cats

You will often hear your cat hacking or gagging when they have a hairball. Sometimes, they may vomit up the hairball, while other times, they may only throw up food or mucus without producing the hairball. If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to consult your vet for advice.

There are hairball remedies available, such as lubricants and jellies, that can help your cat pass the hairball or cough it up. It’s crucial to follow the directions for these products and consult your vet to determine which ones are suitable for your cat. While occasional hairballs are normal, frequent episodes may require more aggressive prevention tactics. If left untreated, hairballs can cause blockages in the esophagus or intestinal tract, which can be life-threatening.

If your cat experiences severe hacking for more than a day, reduced appetite, lethargy, or constipation/diarrhea, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a stubborn hairball.

Prevention Of Hairballs In Cats

While it may not be possible to completely prevent hairballs, there are steps you can take to reduce their frequency and severity. Here are some prevention measures you can discuss with your vet:

1. Brush your cat frequently: Regular brushing helps remove loose hair, reducing the amount your cat ingests. This can be a great bonding activity between you and your cat. Groomer visits are also an option, especially for long-haired cats.

2. Change your cat’s diet: Certain cat foods focus on improving skin and coat health, which can help reduce shedding. These foods may also contain added fiber to stimulate bowel movements and aid hairball passage.

3. Provide plenty of water: While water won’t directly cure hairballs, it plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Ensure your cat has access to fresh water at all times. A cat water fountain or frequent water refills may encourage them to drink more.

4. Get your cat a toy: New toys can help distract your cat from excessive grooming and provide stimulation and exercise. Regular exercise contributes to overall health and can help your cat’s system work more efficiently.


Hairballs are a common occurrence in cats, but they can sometimes be serious. By understanding the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of hairballs, you can better care for your feline friend. Remember to consult your vet for specific advice and recommendations tailored to your cat’s needs.


Q: Are hairballs dangerous for cats?
A: Hairballs can be serious if they cause blockages in the esophagus or intestines. Seek veterinary attention if your cat experiences severe symptoms or produces hairballs frequently.

Q: Can I prevent hairballs entirely?
A: It may not be possible to prevent hairballs entirely, but you can take measures to reduce their frequency and severity. Regular grooming, dietary changes, providing water, and offering toys for distraction can all help.

Q: What should I do if my cat has a hairball stuck?
A: If your cat is unable to pass a hairball or is experiencing severe symptoms, seek immediate veterinary care. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the hairball.


1. Take the time to brush your cat regularly to remove loose hair and reduce hairball formation.
2. Discuss dietary options with your vet to improve your cat’s skin and coat health and reduce shedding.
3. Ensure your cat has access to plenty of fresh water to keep their digestive tract functioning properly.
4. Provide your cat with toys and regular exercise to prevent excessive grooming and promote overall health.