Are Cat Hairballs Something to Worry About?

July 7, 2023 6:36 pm Published by

Are Cat Hairballs Something to Worry About?

Cat hairballs are a common occurrence amongst feline companions and often seen as a normal part of their grooming routine. However, many cat owners wonder if hairballs pose any health risks or if they require special attention. In this blog post, we will delve into the topic of cat hairballs to help you understand their causes, potential complications, and how to manage them effectively.

1. What Causes Hairballs in Cats?

Hairballs develop when cats groom themselves and ingest loose fur. Their tongues have tiny barbs that catch loose hair, which is then swallowed. Most of the hair passes through the digestive system and is expelled in the feces. However, excess hair can accumulate in the stomach and form a hairball. Cats with longer fur, older cats, and those that excessively groom themselves are more prone to developing hairballs.

2. Are Hairballs Harmful to Cats?

While occasional hairballs are normal for cats, they can occasionally cause discomfort or lead to potential health issues. When a hairball becomes too large to pass through the digestive tract, it may cause symptoms such as gagging, retching, coughing, or vomiting. Severe or persistent vomiting could indicate an underlying issue, and veterinary attention should be sought to rule out any complications.

3. Preventive Measures:

To minimize the occurrence of hairballs and potential complications, there are several preventive measures cat owners can take. Regular grooming, especially for long-haired breeds, helps to remove loose hair and prevent excessive ingestion. Brushing your cat daily or using a grooming tool designed to reduce shedding can significantly reduce the amount of hair your cat ingests. Additionally, feeding your cat a high-fiber diet or adding hairball remedies, such as lubricating gels or treats, can aid in the passage of hair through the digestive system.

4. Signs of a Problematic Hairball:

While occasional hairballs are considered normal, it is important to recognize when they may be causing more distress to your cat. Look out for the following signs that may indicate a problematic hairball:

  • Frequent or persistent vomiting
  • Lack of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Lethargy or unusual behavior

If your cat shows any of these signs or is unable to pass a hairball, it is advisable to consult with a vet for further evaluation and appropriate treatment.

5. When to Seek Veterinary Attention:

In most cases, hairballs will pass naturally. However, if your cat is experiencing frequent or severe vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, or other concerning symptoms, seeking veterinary attention is necessary. A veterinarian will perform a thorough examination, possibly including diagnostic tests, to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms and provide appropriate treatment.

6. Hairball Management and Treatment:

To help manage hairballs and prevent potential complications, cat owners can take certain steps:

  • Regular grooming and brushing to remove loose hair
  • Feeding a high-quality, high-fiber diet
  • Providing access to fresh water to encourage hydration
  • Incorporating hairball remedies or lubricating gels into your cat’s routine
  • Using cat-specific hairball control products as directed by your veterinarian

Additionally, regular veterinary check-ups and preventive care can help ensure your cat’s overall health and minimize the risk of complications associated with hairballs.

7. Other Potential Causes of Vomiting:

While hairballs are a common cause of vomiting in cats, it is crucial to be aware that vomiting can also be indicative of other underlying health issues. Gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, dietary intolerances, infections, or even ingestion of foreign objects can cause vomiting. If you notice any abnormal patterns or changes in your cat’s vomiting behavior, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.


While hairballs are a normal part of a cat’s grooming routine, it is important to pay attention to their frequency and observe your cat for any signs of discomfort or complications. Regular grooming, a high-fiber diet, and the use of hairball remedies can help manage and prevent excessive hairballs. However, if you notice persistent or severe symptoms, it is best to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health concerns. By understanding and addressing cat hairballs, you can ensure your feline companion’s well-being and minimize the risk of complications associated with hair ingestion.

Got Questions? Let Us Help!

Welcome to Kingstowne Cat Clinic! Kingstowne Cat Clinic is a locally owned, community focused cat clinic. We specialize in giving your feline friend the care they need. We offer wellness exams, surgery, dentistry, vaccinations, and acupuncture. We also provide sedated grooming and at home euthanasia. Kingstowne Cat Clinic is dedicated to providing quality medical and surgical care for all cats. Contact us today for an appointment!

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