Symptoms of Hairballs How to Know if Your Cat is Having a Hairball

Symptoms of Hairballs
expert or vet photo
vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Thumbnail of Greenies Feline Smart Bite Healthy Indoor

Greenies Feline Smart Bite Healthy Indoor

Training Treats
{{petcare_price|currency}} Price in Cart w/PetPlus {{petplus_price|currency}} See PetPlus Price in Cart

The biggest sign that your cat has a hairball to expel is an extended hacking or gagging noise indicating that your cat is vomiting the hairball. Learn the other signs and symptoms of hairballs.

In an ideal situation, the minimal amount of hair your cat ingests as part of their grooming process will exit from their body with feces. Since hair is not digestible for cats -- or any mammal -- once hair takes up residency in your catโ€™s body, it must be removed somehow. The biggest sign that your cat has a hairball to expel is an extended hacking or gagging noise indicating that your cat is vomiting the hairball.

Despite the name, hairballs are not shaped like a round ball -- rather, hairballs are cylindrically shaped masses of clumped-together fur. If you come across one in your home, you may think that it is your catโ€™s feces. However, if you dare to investigate further, you will be able to see that it is has less of an odor than feces, and that it also has the same coloring as your catโ€™s fur.

Having one hairball about every week, or every two weeks, is relatively normal for cats and is not problematic.

Other Symptoms to Watch For

If you hear the telltale hack of a cat trying to emit a hairball more frequently than every few weeks, it can be a cause for concern. Similarly, if your cat tries to release a hairball, but is not successful, the hairball can become problematic. While itโ€™s not common, a hairball that wonโ€™t exit from your cat may need to be removed surgically to prevent damage to your catโ€™s stomach and intestines. Watch for signs of your cat experiencing digestive problems, such as constipation, in conjunction with hairballs. Constipation can reveal that your catโ€™s hairball is lodged in their colon.

Other problematic symptoms to watch for include a disinterest in food, depression and lethargy, and a poor condition of your catโ€™s coat. If you spot these more serious symptoms, a visit to the vet is in order.

Your Cat Hairball Solution Guide

If your cat gets frequent hairballs, you probably do a lot more clean up than youโ€™d like to. Your cat is also probably doing more hacking up than theyโ€™d like to do. Cat hairballs are a natural occurrence and your cat will likely always have then occasionally, but you can help reduce their frequency and give both you and your cat a break.

Even better, cat hairball remedies can reduce the risk for hairball-related health issues, like blocked intestines. Keep your cat happier and healthier with these effective products.

Cat Brushes

Get at the root of the hairball problem by getting extra hair out of your catโ€™s coat. Cats naturally ingest loose hair when they groom, so removing those loose hairs proactively through brushing will give your kitty less to swallow. 


Furminator deShedding Tool, Long Hair Cats

  • Up to 2/3 of the hair a cat sheds is ingested--the Furminator reduces that amount drastically
  • Reduces shedding up to 90%
  • Perfectly designed for long haired cats
  • Ejector button makes cleaning the tool easy

Furminator deShedding Tool, Short Hair Cats

  • Perfect for short-haired cats who shed a lot
  • Reduces the amount of shed hair by 90%
  • Easy to clean

4 Paws Tender Kitty Slicker Brush

  • Perfect for cats with sensitive skin or delicate coats
  • Reduces shedding and prevents hairballs
  • Keeps coat healthy and shiny
  • Massages cat's skin for a great grooming experience

Hairball Remedy Pastes, Treats, and Vitamins 

Some hairball remedies are laxative-based products that help your cat digest any hair in their system and pass it through their stool. Your cat will use the litter box like usual instead of retching up so many hairballs. Others are oil combinations and vitamins for cats that boost coat health, meaning less loose hair to start with.


Kittymalt Hairball Remedy

  • Help hair pass through digestive tract to reduce hairballs
  • Easy to administer--just put on your cat's paw and they lick it off
  • Given daily, it helps prevent hairball build-ups


  • This tuna-flavored laxative is eagerly eaten by cats and prevents hairballs. (You can also try Maple-Flavored Laxatone)
  • Also prevent nausea and constipation
  • Contains a beneficial iron supplement

Petromalt Hairball Remedy Treat

  • Easy-to-give delicious treat
  • No added salt or artificial colors
  • Contains rice bran and mineral oil to prevent hairballs

Greenies Feline Smart Bite Hairball Control

  • Contains plant-based fibers for hairball prevention
  • Feed as a snack or a treat
  • Delicious chicken flavor

Shed No More Plus Hairball Control for Cats

  • A bled of nutrients, herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural oils that reduce shedding
  • Gives your cat healthier, shinier fur

Vets Best Hairball Relief Tabs

  • Contains no petroleum-based ingredients
  • Supports a health digestive tract and reduces hairballs
  • Contains herbs that naturally lubricate

Cat Foods for Hairball Prevention 

Perhaps the simplest way to reduce hairballs is to feed your cat a food specifically designed for hairball prevention. The fibers and oils in these foods help your cat digest any ingested hair more effectively, and also boosts coat health.


Eukanuba Cat Indoor Weight Control & Hairball Relief

  • Promotes healthy digestion with premium ingredients
  • Contains vitamin E and fish oil to promote healthy hair
  • Just feed your cat as usual, and they'll have fewer hairballs!

Chicken Soup Senior Hairball Adult Cat Food

  • Hairball management specifically for senior cats
  • Delicious chicken flavor

Premium Edge Hairball Forumla for Adult Cats

  • For cats 1 to 7 years olf
  • Supports a health immune system and reduces plaque while also reducing hairballs

Cosmic Kitty Grass

  • While not a cat food, this natural blend of herbs and greens will delight your kitty
  • Grown easily at home
  • Cats will happily chew the grass, a natural hairball remedy
More on Cat Health

5 Facts About Asthma and Coughing in Cats and Dogs
Why Cats Meow: Cat Purrs, Growls, and Other Language
Why Cats Eat Grass and Other Self-Medicating Habits

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

Was this article helpful?

You May Also Like

Image for All About Cat Hairballs
All About Cat Hairballs

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Methods for Hairballs

Read More
Image for How to Prevent/Treat Urinary Blockage in Male Cats?
How to Prevent/Treat Urinary Blockage in Male Cats?

Ways of Preventing and Treating Urinary Blockage in Masculine Felines

Read More