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How to treat and prevent hairballs in cats

Updated on May 2, 2016

Cat Hairball

Cat Hairball 10 cm long
Cat Hairball 10 cm long | Source

Hairballs in Cats

Hairballs in cats can be gross for cats and their owners. For cat parents, they are an unpleasant find on the floor. Hairballs in cats are the result of hair getting lodged in our cats’ stomach. Once the hair starts accumulating in a cats’ stomach, the only way a cat can get it out is to cough it up. When a hairball gets stuck in the cat's stomach or in the intestines, it is a medical emergency. How to prevent hairballs in cats and treatment for hairballs in cats will be covered in this article.

Cats love to keep themselves clean. As they bathe their fur, dead hairs from their coat get stuck on the small bumps that cover their tongue. This hair gets swallowed and then can get lodged in their stomach if it does not pass through. This mass of hair is what makes up a hairball. Want to know how to prevent hairballs in cats and treatment for hairballs in cats? Read on!

Dr. Wallach Explains Why Cats Get Hairballs and How to Prevent Hairballs

Symptoms of Hairballs in Cats

Symptoms of hairballs in cats are very noticeable for cat owners. The cat starts making gagging and coughing noises. They will sit in place or stand on the floor and keep coughing until the hairball has come up. Once it is out, the hairball appears like a long, tube-like mass of fur. Because cats have a narrow esophagus, the hairball looks like a long tube of matted, off color, fur after it is retched out.

If your cat starts gagging, coughing, and retching non-stop without coughing up a hairball, this is a sign of a very major problem. Most of the time hair will simply pass through the digestive tract and into the intestines or will be retched out as a hairball. When a hairball gets stuck in the stomach or in the intestines it causes a blockage. This blockage is a medical emergency for your cat. In addition to the non-stop retching noises, your cat may have a lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation or diarrhea. If you suspect a hairball is causing a blockage in your cat, take her to a Veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment of hairballs in cats.

FURminator for Short or Long Hair Cats

How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats

A common question is how to prevent hairballs in cats. The best way to stop these nasty hairballs in cats is to brush her on a daily basis. By brushing your cat daily you will remove the dead hair from her coat and onto the brush. With less dead hair in you cats coat, there will be less hair for her to swallow during her grooming.

Hairballs in cats are more common in cats with long hair. How to prevent hairballs in cats with long hair? Consider taking your long hair cat to a groomer once every six months. By keeping her hair short she will be less likely of forming a hairball.

How to prevent hairballs in cats other that brushing her are trimming her hair? Try a special cat food diets that prevents hairballs in cats. These cat food formulations contain more fiber. This fiber acts as a mild laxative helping any swallowed hair in her stomach to pass through her digestive tract. Thus, there is no need for her to retch up a hairball.

Treatment for Hairballs in Cats

The best treatment for hairballs in cats is prevention. If this does not work, treatment for hairballs in cats can be done with a petroleum jelly product. Since most cats do not like taking a dose of this jelly, manufactures have included flavors such as malt and tuna to make it more tolerable for your cat. This jelly lubricates her stomach and intestines allowing hair that is being accumulated to pass through her stomach and intestines. Follow the manufactures directions if you chose to use this treatment for hairballs in cats.


Hairballs in cats are a normal issue for any cat and cat parent. Knowing the symptoms of hairballs and how to prevent hairballs in cats and treatment for hairballs in cats, you can reduce this less desirable part of life with a cat. Now you that you have an idea of how to prevent hairballs in cats, your cat can spend more time playing and sleeping and you will get less of these gross finds on your floor!


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    • crazycatman profile image

      crazycatman 6 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Formosangirl, you're welcome! I'm glad you got something out of my little ole' hub. I use hairball control treats to help my cat, Bexar, as he gets hairball frequently.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great hub! My cat frequently vomits. Thanks for this hub.