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What are Hairballs?

Hairballs are usually harmless unless your cat is coughing them up frequently. The hair may have hardened and caused a blockage of the intestinal tract, and this condition can be fatal for your furry friend.

It is common for your cat to swallow hair during the grooming process. The hair is usually passed through the body and eliminated, but there are times when the hair cannot make it through the intestinal tract. Your cat will vomit up what is known as a hairball, or trichobezoar.

Hairballs Average Cost

From 320 quotes ranging from $75 - $800

Average Cost

$150

Symptoms of Hairballs in Cats

You may notice your cat vomiting a particle that is the same color as their fur, and it usually contains hair, along with other materials from the stomach. The common symptoms of hairballs are as follow:

  • Vomiting with food or fluid
  • Hairball in a cylindrical shape
  • Dry cough, wheezing, or gagging
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Weakness or lethargy

It is important to take your cat to the veterinarian if they are frequently vomiting or displaying other symptoms. This could be a sign of an intestinal blockage.

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Causes of Hairballs in Cats

The main cause of a hairball is loose hair that has been ingested but not passed through the intestinal tract.

It is no secret that cats spend hours licking and grooming their fur. Your cat swallows the loose or dead fur that sticks to their tongue, and the hair is digested and eliminated through the feces. However, there are times when the hair accumulates in the stomach. This creates a hairball that is vomited up with food or fluid.

Excessive grooming, long coats, and shedding also play a factor in swallowing loose fur. The loose fur can become a hairball at any time, but the condition usually harmless unless it is happening often or leads to intestinal blockage.

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Diagnosis of Hairballs in Cats

You may notice your cat is coughing up hairballs when you find vomit with pieces of hair, food, and fluid in it. Loss of appetite, lethargy, and frequent vomiting are signs of an intestinal blockage and must be treated immediately.

The symptoms could be signs of another condition, so your veterinarian will perform a physical exam to confirm the hairball. Expect to answer questions about the cat’s medical history and how often they cough up hairballs. It may be helpful to keep a log of their hairball regurgitation and the other symptoms they are displaying. Your veterinarian may also order blood tests and radiographs to check for an intestinal blockage in your cat.

It is vital to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice the symptoms. Your veterinarian needs to check for a blockage or an obstruction of the intestinal tract. The intestinal blockage needs to be treated immediately, or this condition could be fatal for your cat.

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Treatment of Hairballs in Cats

There are several forms of treatment for hairballs in cats, and the treatment your veterinarian recommends will depend on the severity of the condition.

Administering a Hairball Preventative

Your veterinarian may recommend a hairball preventative to keep hairballs at bay. The products act as a lubricant so your cat can pass the hairball through the intestinal tract. One example of a product is Laxatone, which can be applied and licked off their paws. 

Change of Diet

A change of diet may help your cat pass and eliminate the swallowed hair. Your veterinarian may suggest a diet that consists of more fiber. Fiber is known to keep the intestinal tract functioning properly, and this is just what your cat needs to pass the swallowed hair through their body. You can also talk to your veterinarian about giving your cat food and treats that are designed to prevent hairballs.

Regularly Grooming Your Cat

The excessive grooming causes your cat to lick and swallow the loose pieces of hair. You can reduce the amount of hair your cat ingests by brushing the fur several times a week. Brushing the fur removes the loose or dead hair before your cat can swallow it.

Surgical Removal

There is a possibility that your cat may need to undergo surgery to remove the hairball from the intestinal tract. Surgery is only an option if the case is severe and life-threatening.

You should always talk to your veterinarian before administering a preventative or changing their diet. A vet can help you be sure you are choosing the best treatment for your cat.

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Recovery of Hairballs in Cats

A follow-up appointment is necessary for making sure your cat is responding well to treatment. It is vital to schedule a follow-up appointment if the hairball had to be surgically removed. Your veterinarian will check the cat’s healing and progress and provide instructions for preventing hairballs in the future.

Treating the hairball or intestinal blockage early can lead to a full recovery for your four-legged friend.

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Hairballs Average Cost

From 320 quotes ranging from $75 - $800

Average Cost

$150

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Hairballs Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Maincoon

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea Loss Of Appetite Lethargy

My cat was eating minimal for two days and drinking very little. Then he was not eating at all. I took him to the emergency vet and they did complete bloodwork and everything was absolutely normal. They gave him sub Q fluids and sent him home on Flagyl. history of hairballs, they offered me an abdominal x-ray to rule out obstruction. continues to have diarrhea but no vomiting. history of retching without producing hairballs as he is an older cat. after receiving anti-nausea medicine and the fluids he ate a quarter of a can of food. His belly is not distended or painful. Return to vet for xray?

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello Thank you for your question. Since he is continuing to have GI symptoms I do think it would be a good idea to have your veterinarian recheck him to perform the x-ray or abdominal imaging such as an ultrasound. They will also be able to recheck his hydration status and can give him additional fluids if needed. I hope he feels better soon!

July 24, 2020

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lily

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Domestic short hair cat

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Vomiting Lethargic

my cat was acting a little different not quite eating that well and now not eating at all She vomited and when i looked at it it had a huge hairball in it could that be making her feel awful i have an app tomorrow with my vet and how serious is this Joy

Aug. 7, 2018

lily's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It may be that Lily had some difficulty bringing up the hairball which made her a little lethargic and may do well now that it is up; however if she isn’t in distress you may wait until tomorrow to check in with your Veterinarian to ensure that there isn’t anything more serious to be concerned about. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 8, 2018

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Miss kitty

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Unknown

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Hairball

How long should it take for my cat to cough up a hairball? I started her on a hairball treatment yesterday. She’s acting fine but not eating and drinking just a little.

April 22, 2018

Miss kitty's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hairballs are only one reason that Miss Kitty may be not eating, and if the hairball remedy that you gave is not helping over the last day or two, it might be a good idea to have her seen by your veterinarian to make sure that nothing else is going on with her. I hope that everything goes well for her.

April 22, 2018

Thank you! I gave her some tuna and she’s been drinking water and keeping it all down so far. So I’m going to keep an eye on her over the next 24hrs and go from there. Thanks again for the advice!

April 22, 2018

Miss kitty's Owner

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Bella

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Long haired domestic

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Five Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

I am wondering if my cat may need surgery to remove hairballs in her stomache. X-ray showed hairballs in her stomache. Laxatone doesn't help her to eliminate the hair balls. She vomits at least once a week, sometimes twice. She also eats too fast so I got her a slow feeder. I have to make sure she only eats alittle at a time. She can't seem to gain weight. She has a good appetite and begs me for more to give her.

Jan. 24, 2018

Bella's Owner

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0 Recommendations

If Bella has severe hairballs to the point where they are not able to be brought up or passed then a surgical option may be the only choice; hairball remedies should be considered but if the hairballs are not moving or are too large then you should discuss surgery with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 24, 2018

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Sophie

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Calico

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomit

My 10 year calico has a long history of hairballs. She will go 6-7 days without eating, she will try and she will immediately vomit however she keeps water down. Eventually the hairball is passed in her litter box. She has been seen by our vet and they have done ultrasounds and has been given appetite stimulates and we have changed her diet but the problem still continues. She does groom excessively and I try and brush her (she’s not a fan) this happens every 4-5 weeks 😞

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Loki

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mixed

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11 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing, Hacking Lethargic
Coughing, Hacking, Lethargic

It's been a day w/o eating him. He is barely drinking any water. He started gagging, coughing, hacking and is very lethargic. He keeps coughing up a clear like fluid but not hair. I gave him a hair ball remedy last night and he only defecated runny diarrhea like but not a lot and no hair. Should I wait another day to see if the hairball remedy works or should I just take him to the vet?

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Sylvester

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Domestic Long Haired

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Caughing, Hacking, Throwing Up Foam

My little guy is 6 months old now and is a very active and playful cat. This morning I noticed him hacking foam came out along with somewhat yellow to clear liquid around the foam. I went to the vet to pick up hairball remedy called Vedalax. I gave him maybe half a teaspoon of it. I've also gave him some coconut oil. Now he's lethargic. He won't eat or drink. I had to force the medicine and the coconut oil in his mouth. I'm taking him in on Friday to get seen Incase it hasn't gotten better. But he went from being fine yesterday then downhill at 4 this morning. It's now 2:30 in the afternoon and nothing. Any suggestions? Also, he moved around ok but slower than usual. Can jump off and on the couch and bed Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/hairballs

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Oscar

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British Shorthair

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomitting

My cat coughs up hairballs every now and again but carries on as normal. Today he did and now seems very quiet and wants to be alone upstairs. This is not usual. I should mention I have a medical condition was also very offside this morning. Just wondering if anything could be wrong with him since coughing up the hairball or maybe he has just detected I am more ill than usual.

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misty

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mixed

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Ball On Her Stomach

misty is eating , but doesn't drink enough water , we have bought her wet cat food and she has a large ball around her stomach and it has peeled where i see her 2 second skin. misty aslo biting her paws - legs and scratching herself vigorously.

Hairballs Average Cost

From 320 quotes ranging from $75 - $800

Average Cost

$150

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