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Why Do Cats Cough Up Hair Balls?

Updated on December 17, 2009

Many people share their home with cats, and you may have actually thought that you needed to give your cat the ‘Heimlich’ maneuver the first time one starts hacking up a hairball.  If you are a first time cat owner, you probably had no idea that was going to happen. You might think that the cat is choking to death.  You may have thought that you just barely averted a tragedy when it was all over and the cat was still alive. There is no need to fret because this is a normal occurrence. Below are some tips on how to make this event more tolerable for your cat and yourself.

Unlike dogs, cats groom themselves by constantly licking themselves, top to bottom.  That is why you rarely have to give them baths.  They have tongues that are like sandpaper, and when they lick their fur, it pulls the hair and everything on it into their mouths and stomachs.  Because they do this, they have a lot of undigested hair in their insides, which eventually has to come out.  Not only do they groom themselves, but also in situations involving multiple cats, they may even groom each other.  Needless to say, that is a lot of hair to deal with.

Hairball Remedies

There are a few natural ways you can help to alleviate this problem. One very simple one is to regularly brush your cat’s fur. Some cats don’t like to sit still, be handled, or be held, which may make this difficult. You may have to get creative, and do something like brush them while they eat. Other cats will love the attention and let you brush them for what seems like hours. It may turn into a bonding opportunity between you and your feline friend.

Another way is to purchase the cat food that contains a hairball remedy. Many people have used this product and noticed a slight drop in the number of hairballs to clean up. Some cat treats also boast this formula and you could have similar results with it.

The method that seems to work best for many cat owners is to put some type of digestible oil on the tops of their paws. It doesn’t matter if you use front paws, back, or both; they will lick the oil off almost immediately. They can’t stand the feel of it on their fur, and swallowing it sends it to the stomach where it is used as a coating that makes the fur more digestible. Many people use canola oil but most cooking oils will work.

Cat Grooming Products to Help Prevent Hairballs


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  • Bailey-1 profile image

    Bailey-1 5 years ago from Ohio

    Thanks for the tips. We just got a cat after a long period of having no pets, and I find I know next to nothing about cat health. The bile colored hairy barf on the carpet is quite disgusting too so Kitty's getting a hairbrush and some oil on his paws.

  • kelsorogers profile image

    kelsorogers 7 years ago

    Nice hub. I found the information on natural remedies very useful. Thanks!