Cat Hairballs

outdoor kittens_blog photo

Hairballs are a common problem in cats.  They are especially prevalent in long haired breeds and with cats who groom themselves excessively and with cats who shed a lot.

When a cat grooms himself the tiny hook like features on  his tongue will remove dead and loose hair.  This is then swallowed.

Most of the time the swallowed hair will continue through the cat’s digestive tract and be eliminated without any problems.

When the swallowed hair does not complete its journey through the digestive tract, but instead remains in the stomach orsmall intestines, this can form a hairball and cause a problem,  Usually the cat will gag or hack until he is able to vomit and get rid of the hairball.

In fact, the first symptoms of a cat with a hairball may be the gagging and hacking of the cat.  Hairballs may also cause your cat to display signs of constipation or diarrhea or he may have a decreased appetite.  You will sometimes be able to see signs of hair in the waste the cat vomits.


If your cat is vomiting and having problems for more than 24 hours or seems in real distress, you should consult with your veterinarian.  It is not common but it is possible for the hairball to cause a blockage in the cat’s system which may require surgery to correct.

Even if your cat never had a hairball as a kitten it is not unusual for him to develop a hairball as he matures.  This is because the full grown cat is much better at grooming himself than a kitten can do.

There are some precautions  you can take to reduce the problem of hairballs.  There is commercial cat food on the market formulated especially to prevent hairballs.  There are lubricants and hairball remedies which help the hairballs travel through the digestive system.  These products are available at pet stores and should be used as directed.  Regular brushing will  remove the loose and dead hair and will reduce the amount of hair your cat will ingest.  If your cat is grooming himself excessively and you think this is contributing to his hairballs try to distract him with an activity he enjoys instead of the grooming.