Do Cats Get Irritable When They Can't Cough Up a Hairball?

Don't be shocked if hairball woes cause your cat to act a little cranky.
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If you hear your poor kitty making awful-sounding retching noises to seemingly no end, instead of being annoyed at the racket, try sympathizing with him instead. Dealing with a pesky hairball certainly can't be a walk in the park, especially if it just won't come out.

About Hairballs

Cats are meticulous groomers, so it's no surprise that they occasionally ingest some hair by accident. However, this hair has to go somewhere, and that somewhere typically ends up being either your kitty's tummy or his small intestine -- if it doesn't get expelled when your little one goes number two, of course. If this hair accumulates, it will usually culminate in your cat hacking up the clump of hair, which usually has a long and narrow form.


If your cat is trying to cough up a hairball without any success, it will likely be very apparent to you. You'll hear your sweet pet making an array of uncomfortable sounds, from coughing and hacking to retching and spitting up. In general, it takes a cat only about a minute or two to vomit up the annoyance, though it can sometimes take longer. Apart from the obvious hacking sounds, your cat may also display other symptoms, including exhaustion, reduced appetite and constipation.

Irritable Mood

If your usually cheerful fluff ball seems to be experiencing some sort of uncharacteristic irritable mood, don't be surprised if it is related to his inability to quickly cough up a hairball up. According to the Humane Society of Central Illinois, hairballs are a common source of depression in felines. Instead of being annoyed that your cat is acting a little distant with you, consider the fact that a lingering hairball is causing him to feel depressed -- aww.

Veterinary Attention

Don't ignore signs that your cat is having serious trouble getting rid of a hairball. If your cat is behaving in an irritated manner and is trying to cough something up for over 24 hours, the ASPCA recommends seeking immediate veterinary attention, especially if he's also experiencing watery stool or constipation symptoms. These symptoms could indicate intestinal blockage, a potentially dangerous hairball complication that could require surgery. If a big hairball is obstructing your cat's gastrointestinal tract, it could lead to possibly deadly consequences, so waste absolutely no precious time.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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