A hairball, also known as a “trichobezoar” in veterinary terms, is a nasty wad of hair that cats hack up after ingesting excessive amounts of fur during self-grooming.

Hairballs are a common issue for cats, especially for long-haired breeds like Maine Coons and Persians, who tend to ingest more hair during grooming sessions. Older cats and fastidious groomers are also more susceptible to developing them due to their grooming habits.


Cats’ tongues are covered with tiny, slanted projections called papillae, which help collect loose hair during grooming. The ingested hair then travels to the stomach, where it can form into a cylindrical, cigar-shaped mass moistened by bile and digestive fluids.

While most of the hair passes through the digestive system and is excreted in feces, some hair may remain in the stomach and form a ball.


Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Hacking, gagging, and retching
  • Vomiting up the hairball
  • Ongoing vomiting without producing a hairball
  • Lethargy and lack of appetite
  • Constipation or diarrhea

If you notice your cat exhibiting these symptoms without successfully expelling a hairball, it could indicate a potentially life-threatening intestinal blockage, and you should seek veterinary attention immediately.


While occasional hairball vomiting is relatively harmless, frequent or untreated hairballs can lead to serious complications, including:

Intestinal blockages: If a hairball passes through the stomach and becomes lodged in the intestine, it can cause a blockage, which may require hospitalization, intravenous rehydration, laxatives, or even surgery to remove.

Respiratory issues: Persistent hacking and retching could signify an underlying respiratory condition, such as asthma, which requires prompt veterinary treatment.


While the occasional hairball is normal and relatively harmless for cats, frequent hairballs can signify an underlying issue and lead to serious complications if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several proactive steps you can take to minimize formation and protect your feline friend’s health and well-being. With National Hairball Awareness Day celebrated annually on the last Friday of April, it’s a good time to review prevention tips.

By addressing the root causes, such as excessive shedding or obsessive grooming, and implementing preventive measures tailored to your cat’s needs, you can significantly reduce the risk of hairballs and the associated discomfort or potential health problems they may cause.

To reduce the risk and keep your cat healthy, consider these preventive measures:

Regular Grooming

  • Brush or comb your cat daily to remove loose hair and minimize ingestion during grooming. This is especially important for long-haired breeds.
  • For cats who protest daily brushing, schedule professional grooming appointments once or twice a year, especially during shedding seasons when hairballs are more likely.

Veterinary Guidance

If your cat is prone to frequent or persistent hairballs, it’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian for personalized advice on prevention and management strategies. Your vet can perform a thorough examination to rule out any underlying health issues that may be contributing to the problem, such as food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, or metabolic disorders.

Based on your cat’s individual needs and medical history, your veterinarian may recommend specific dietary changes, grooming techniques, or medication to help manage them more effectively. They can also provide guidance on what signs might indicate a more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention, such as a potential intestinal blockage.


In addition to dietary adjustments and environmental enrichment, recent studies and expert opinions have highlighted the potential benefits of natural remedies and prescribed supplements for managing hairballs in cats.

Over-the-Counter Lubricants

Orange tabby cat licks hairball remedy from tube.Many pet owners and veterinarians are exploring the use of over-the-counter lubricants or gels, which are typically made from ingredients like petroleum, mineral oil, or plant-based oils. These products can help lubricate the digestive tract and aid in the passage of ingested hair, reducing the risk of formation.

Prescribed Medications and Supplements

Furthermore, some veterinarians may prescribe medications or supplements that contain fiber sources like psyllium or enzymes that can break down ingested hair more effectively. These prescribed remedies can be especially helpful for cats with chronic issues or those prone to intestinal blockages.

Natural Alternatives

In addition to conventional remedies, some pet owners and holistic veterinarians are investigating the potential benefits of natural supplements like probiotics, omega fatty acids, or digestive enzymes. While more research is needed, these natural alternatives may help support overall digestive health, coat condition, and potentially reduce excessive shedding and hairball formation.

Trustworthy Cat Care for Busy Pet Parents

If you’re a busy pet parent in the Austin or Dallas areas and need help ensuring your cat’s well-being while you’re away, consider our professional cat sitting services. Our team of experienced and caring pet sitters can provide regular brushing, playtime, and monitoring for any troubles during your absence. We’ll work closely with you and your veterinarian to follow any specific prevention protocols, giving you peace of mind knowing your feline companion is in good hands.

Contact us today to learn more about our tailored cat sitting solutions and how we can help keep your cat happy and healthy.

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