Are Cat Hairballs Normal?

Do cats normally cough up hairballs? Our cat sitter expert says "Yes."

Q: My cat throws up hairballs. Is this OK?

A: Yes, within reason. Cats are always licking and cleaning themselves and this constant preening causes them to swallow loose hair. The hair usually passes through the cat’s gastrointestinal tract and comes out in the stool. However, occasionally hair collects in the cat’s stomach and can form into hairballs.

See the results of a CAT FANCY and CatChannel poll on how many cat owners deal with hairballs >>

During a recent house call to care for adorable cats Pumpkin and Peanut, I was scooping the litterbox when I heard that loud, forced coughing sound that all cat owners know well. I raced to find the location and found Peanut on top of his owner’s freshly made bed staring guiltily at a large hairball the cat had left there, along with breakfast. I have to laugh when I think: why is it always the bed and not the bathroom floor? Anyway, Peanut must have felt better because the cat scampered off to get into more mischief with Pumpkin. I, of course, cleaned up the mess.

Learn other reasons why cats throw up >>

Cats do feel better after they get rid of a hairball so it is nothing to be worried about. Repeated coughing usually brings up cat hairballs and it’s not uncommon for cats to pass a hairball after eating their food or kitty grass. Longhaired cats have a bit more of a problem than shorthaired for obvious reasons. Daily brushing can help prevent your cat from swallowing loose hair, and your vet might suggest a flavored paste or high fiber diet to help your cat.

Find out the grooming needs of specific cat breeds >>

Symptoms of a hairball include gagging, dry coughing, vomiting of undigested food or more serious — a loss of appetite or constipation. If any of these persist or your cat seems in distress, do not assume it’s a hairball and please call your vet immediately. Good luck and know that the occasional hairball is nothing to worry about.

Check out other cat hairball causes and cures >>

See more articles by Jeanne Adlon >>


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