We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Cat Hairball?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A cat hairball is a bolus of matted hair and food which forms in the intestinal tract of a cat. Hairballs can be a serious problem for cats, and people should be aware of the signs to look for so that they can identify a cat hairball problem early. While many hairballs are harmlessly passed through one end or the other of the cat, some can cause intestinal obstructions, which can lead to very serious medical complications including death if they are left untreated.

Many people who live with cats are familiar with the dry hacking sound of a cat trying to bring up a hairball, and with the astounding timing cats have for coughing up hairballs in the middle of the night, during critical dinner parties, and at other inconvenient moments. Hairballs are such a notorious part of cat ownership that they have been the fodder of numerous comic strips and jokes about cats.

Hairballs form because cats ingest hair on a regular basis. The digestive system of the cat is actually equipped to handle hair, both from grooming and from prey, but if a cat's diet is not well balanced, the hair may start to collect in the stomach or intestines, matting together to create a cat hairball. In some instances, the hairball may irritate the stomach, causing the cat to vomit it up, and in other cases, it may be passed during defecation. However, hairballs can also block the intestines, causing extreme discomfort.

Passing one to two hairballs a month is normal, and not a major cause for concern. If a cat starts vomiting more frequently, or develops a swollen abdomen, a lack of interest in food, an inability to defecate, or irritability, it can be a sign of a blockage caused by a cat hairball. In these cases, the cat needs to go to the vet. Surgery may be required to remove the hairball from the intestines safely.

Cat hairball prevention can be accomplished in a number of ways. Feeding a high fiber diet tends to help, as does regular grooming to reduce the amount of loose hair. Some people also have success with cat laxatives, and cat grass can also help to ease hair out of the body. Specially formulated food for cats who are prone to hairballs is also available. If a cat experiences repeated hairballs, a veterinarian may be able to provide additional ideas to help manage the problem.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By AnswerMan — On Aug 19, 2014

I always feel so helpless when my cat has hairball symptoms. It sounds like she's really in distress while it's happening, and all I can do is watch her go through it. Sometimes I wonder if something other than a hairball is the problem, because she starts wheezing and coughing after running around the house at full speed.

I think anyone who wants to own a cat needs to understand the relationship between cats and hairballs. I have never met a cat without some hairball problems, especially long-haired breeds. They just like to groom themselves so often, and they are going to ingest some hair along the way. That's just the nature of cats.

By Reminiscence — On Aug 19, 2014

Our cat was having at least 5 hairball incidents a month at one point, so we tried putting him on special hairball reduction cat food. I'd say the food helped reduce the severity of the hairballs, but not the frequency. We had to try some other cat hairball treatments, like administering a paste the vet recommended. Apparently it helped lubricate the cat's hairballs during digestion, so he could pass them more easily.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.