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 cat’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 cat’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 cat’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 it’s not common, a hairball that won’t exit from your cat may need to be removed surgically to prevent damage to your cat’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 cat’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 cat’s coat. If you spot these more serious symptoms, a visit to the vet is in order.
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.