Skip to main content

Why Do Cats Cough Up Hairballs?

When cats groom themselves, they ingest the dead, loose hair from their coats. For many cats, this does not pose a problem. The digestive tract of felines was meant to pass hair from grooming as well as fur from prey. When functioning properly, the hair will be eliminated in the cat’s waste.

So, if a cat was meant to pass this hair safely and easily from their stomachs, why do cats cough up hairballs? For many domestic cats, sometimes the hair gets trapped in the stomach. This is especially true for longhaired cats, but often affects shorthaired cat as well. The hair in the stomach may form a small clump of hair that lies in the stomach. This clump of hair irritates the stomach and causes the cat to cough up hairballs.

 What can I give my cat to help with hairballs?

For most cats, coughing up hairballs occasionally does not cause any further hairball problems. If a cat is trying to cough up a hairball and the cough fails to expel the hairball, the cat owner should consider either seeking advice from a veterinarian or trying a hairball remedy first. There are many over-the-counter hairball remedies available.

What can I give my cat to help with hairballs?

Hairball remedies are designed to help the cat pass hairballs more easily. Oily substances in hairball remedies are intended to help lubricate the hair in the stomach to allow it to pass the rest of the way through the digestive tract. Some hairball treatments are flavored to appeal to the cat. Some commercial cat food and cat treats include a hairball remedy or larger doses of fiber. Fiber treats hairballs by binding to the hair in the stomach and helping it to move through the rest of the digestive tract.

If the cat owner begins a routine of brushing the cat regularly, the cat may experience less frequent hairballs since the dead, loose hair is removed by the brush or comb. If hairballs continue to be problematic or the cat begins vomiting, the cat owner should contact the veterinarian. If the cat stops having bowl movements or appears to be straining, the cat should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out a blockage or other medical problem.