Cats Trying to Pass Hairballs

Over-grooming is a common cause of annoying hairballs.
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Hairballs are no fun for anyone, whether you're a feline or simply the owner of one. While your suffering cat is persistently trying to cough one of the ugly things up, you're subjected to the sounds -- and the worry regarding whether your cutie is going to indeed be OK!

What are Hairballs, Anyway?

Hairballs look like long, tube-shaped masses of matted hair, and are often covered in undigested substances -- not a very pretty sight. Despite the name, the hairy clumps are not usually round.

Hairballs occur when a large amount of your cat's fur begins collecting in her tummy. When a cat licks herself clean during grooming, it is not uncommon for her to accidentally ingest some hair. Unsurprisingly, the more a cat grooms, the more opportunities she will have to experience pesky hairballs. The whole situation typically ends with your little one hacking up the thing -- and it being out of both of your lives for good.

Key Signs

When your cat is trying to pass up a hairball, it will usually be very easy for you to tell. You may notice your cat throwing up a lot -- particularly small amounts at a time. If you look closely at the vomit, you may even spot a little bit of hair. She also may keep making gagging, hacking, coughing and retching sounds intermittently -- much to the frustration of nearby ears.

Other Signs

If you still feel like you need more evidence that your fluffball is making an attempt to pass a hairball, be on the lookout for other telling symptoms of the icky situation. Your poor kitty may all of a sudden seem to have zero appetite. She also may become constipated. If you combine these things with continuous retching sounds, you very likely have a hairball on your hands.


Although usually harmless, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, overly large hairballs can sometimes bring upon intestinal obstruction -- a potentially dangerous health ailment. If your kitty keeps hacking and nothing is coming out, play it safe and smart and take her to the veterinarian. Surgical removal of the hairball may be necessary.

Don't always assume that retching and coughing are indicative of hairballs, either. Nonstop retching also may be linked to a severe breathing condition -- think asthma. If your kitty keeps coughing and hacking and nothing seems to be coming out, get her to the vet's office without hesitation.

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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