What Causes Cat Hairballs?

February 19, 2021 | Pet Guides | Cari Evans
Home / Blog / What Causes Cat Hairballs?

What Causes Cat Hairballs?

We get it, cat hairballs are gross. Especially for the owner who is left to clean up the mess. Nothing will quite get you out of bed faster than a gagging or hacking sound coming from your furry feline. Often, cat hairballs are not concerning and just a natural part of a cat’s life. However, there are things your can do, and cat hairball treatment products available to lessen the occurrence.

Cats like to be clean, and they like to be soothed. Hence their enjoyment of grooming themselves. Domestic cats, on average, spend 40% of their day grooming themselves. If the Kardashian’s were animals… they would be in the feline family for sure!

All cats are different, which includes their coat, grooming habits, digestive health, etc. These things can affect the frequency of cat hairballs.  A kitty that has an occasional hairball here and there, should not cause any concern. However, frequent cat hairballs might mean your cat has an underlying health issue, such as anxiety, allergies, or a gut that is out of sorts.

Cats have tiny hook-like shapes on their tongue to catch loose hair while they are grooming, which is then swallowed. Most of this hair passes all the way through the digestive tract with no trouble. But some hair may get tangled up in the stomach and will turn into a hairball. Usually, your cat will vomit the hairball to clear it out of their system.

Is this normal?

Cat hairballs are more likely to appear in long-haired breeds. Felines that shed more excessively or who groom themselves constantly are also more likely to have hairballs, because they tend to swallow a lot of hair. Most kittens do not encounter hairballs until they have grown up a little. As they mature, they learn the best way to keep themselves clean and remove debris and dead hair from their fur.

Some say a healthy cat might vomit up a wad of fur every week or two. But normalcies will vary for every cat.

If you see any of the following symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian, as it could indicate that a hairball has caused a serious blockage:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Ongoing vomiting, gagging, retching, or hacking without producing a hairball

What can I do?

Nothing can be done to totally prevent hairballs in cats, but there are things you can do and products available to help reduce the frequency.

Groom your cat

The more loose and dead fur you remove from your cat by brushing, the less fur they will end up swallowing to create cat hairballs. Brushing your feline on a daily or at least a weekly basis can be an effective way to minimize hairballs. Most kitties will like the pampering and loving attention. A bonus for both of you! If you are struggling to get your cat accustomed to brushing, consider taking them to a professional groomer every six months. This is helpful especially for those long-haired breeds.

Try Hairball Products

Give your cat a “hairball formula” cat food, treat, or paste. There are several convenient products available to help curb the frequency and severity of cat hairballs. These products strive to minimize the amount of shedding and encourage hairballs in cats to pass through the digestive system. Makes it like a slip n’ slide in their gut.

Give a Laxative

Is your cat in a bind, now? Try a hairball laxative. A laxative can help cat hairballs pass through the digestive tract.


Redirect your cat’s attention if they are grooming excessively. If you suspect your cat’s frequent hairballs are a result of obsessive grooming, try to train your cat to do another enjoyable activity instead of licking their coat. Introduce new toys, spend time playing with your cat to keep them from boredom. Bad habits are harder to break without a distraction.

Now you have a better idea on why some cats experience hairballs more frequently than others and steps you can take to deal with them as needed.

Do you have a question? Contact us!

About UPCO Pet Supplies

Founded in 1952, UPCO® was one of the first retail animal supply companies in St. Joseph, MO.  A third generation, family owned and operated company boasting a knowledgeable staff and offering products from over 700 brands. UPCO® provides both pet and farm supplies to the local community and throughout the U.S. via their website and mail order services. Primary focus on friendly customer service and low wholesale prices, they are the animal supplier of choice, voted Reader’s Choice for the past 12 years.

Located at 3705 Pear Street, Saint Joseph, MO 64503

Sign up for our blog HERE.