A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

Hairballs in Cats: What to watch for

By: Kelli Rascoe

If you have a feline friend in your home, chances are your cat has had a hairball. Hairballs in cats are a normal occurrence. The question is when do they become a medical concern for your furry friend? Naturally, cat grooming is a necessary task that provides health and wellness factors to your best friend. We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian, Dr. Caroline Wilde, to discuss what to watch for with hairballs in cats and best practices for prevention in the future.

How do cats get hairballs?

Cats are going to get hairballs, but how do they get them? Dr. Wilde weighs in on the origin of cat hairballs –

“Cats get hairballs from swallowing hair when they groom themselves. Their tongues have barbs that catch the hair and then swallow it. The hair generally passes through the GI tract without incident, however, if there’s excess hair due to over-grooming, or in long-haired cats, this hair can clump to itself and form a ball in the GI tract.”

Naturally, stomach issues can arise for a number of reasons. For an additional resource, click here.

A grey cat sitting by a window licking her paw

Signs of hairballs in cats

If your cat has hairballs, you might see the remnants of the hairballs visibly around your house. Also, there are other signs your best friend might have hairballs. Consider the following:

Of course, if you have any cause for concern, please seek veterinary care. Your veterinarian can do additional diagnostics and start an appropriate treatment plan.

When do hairballs become a concern?

Hairballs are going to happen. Don’t worry, it’s a natural reaction to your cat's grooming regimen. But when are hairballs something more than serious? Dr. Wilde weighs in on medical concerns with hairballs –

“Hairballs can become a concern if there’s a medical cause for the hair not passing normally, such as dehydration secondary to kidney disease, or intestinal disorders. Over-grooming due to anxiety can also cause abnormal hairball formation. In severe cases, hairballs may cause obstruction, requiring surgical or endoscopic removal.”

If your cat gets hairballs, you should let your veterinarian know so they can determine whether there’s cause for concern and perform appropriate tests. For example, diagnostics may include bloodwork, x-rays, and other medical treatment as needed.

How to treat hairballs in cats

There are a few options you can take to correct any medical issues connected to hairballs. Consider the following:

  • Higher fiber foods
  • Laxatives
  • Supplements

Also, “your veterinarian can advise the best strategy for each cat, as cats can have very diverse nutritional needs,” says Wilde. By keeping your veterinarian up-to-date with your cat’s progress, they can plan accordingly with a treatment plan.

Hairball prevention: tips for a happy cat

Proper grooming can play a role in hairball prevention. Naturally, your cat sgrooms themselves, but these essential tips can help them prevent hairballs. Try out these tips:

  • Brushing your cat daily
  • Regular grooming appointments for your cat
  • Veterinarian recommendations on hairball formula/prescription food

For more tips on grooming your cat, check out this video from PetMD.

Hairballs in cats: easily treatable for your furry friends

Hairballs in cats can be prevented. With a proper grooming regimen, treatment plan, and the expertise and guidance of your veterinarian, your best friend will be back to itself in no time.

For more on cat grooming, read Why Is My Cat Shedding So Much?
A dog and cat snuggle

Sign up for our


Content curated for you and your pet, straight to your inbox. Sign up to receive:

  • Hot tips on pet health
  • The latest pet trends
  • Chances to win big
  • And more!
Sign up now

Blue Facebook icon Blue instagram icon Blue Linkedin icon Blue Pinterest icon Blue Twitter icon Blue YouTube icon


Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.

This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.

Get a quote