Why Does My Cat Get Hairballs? And How Can I Help?

I will never, ever forget the first time I saw a hairball as a child. I won’t go into detail, but it was disgustingly organic looking. For a while it was still confusing and a little scary to see my beloved furbaby go through the motions of having a hairball.

So, why do cats get hairballs? And it even more, what can you do to help them?

What causes them?

You probably know that your cat’s tongue is rough. Their tongues are full of tiny hook-like growths, akin to fingernails because they are both made of keratin. When grooming, these hooks catch loose and dead fur which is then swallowed. As cats age and get more proficient at grooming, they end up having more hairballs because the hair accumulates faster than when they were kittens.

How do I know if my is having a hair ball?

Most of the hair that is swallowed and passes without a problem. However, some of the hair can build up in their stomachs. When this happens they often start to wretch and gag, eventually vomiting up the accumulated hair. Since it has to pass through the esophagus, it doesn’t actually look like a “ball.”

They may also act lethargic, have a decreased appetite as well as constipation or diarrhea. Usually once they pass the hairball they are fine. But if you feel that something is wrong, do not hesitate to contact your vet.

How you can help your cat at home:

  • Grooming is a key to eliminating the dead hair that builds up in their coats. When you remove it, they can’t swallow it. If they seem to have a lot of hairballs, try adding a dab of Alberto VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing to you the brush to help the coat.
  • Adding oily fish to their diet also helps. A can of sardines or a tuna canned in oil about once a month can aid in lubricating their digestive system.
  • Get hairball formulated cat food. This brand of food can help fight against shedding and aid in digestion. The formula is also more oil based and is high in fiber, helping hairballs not form in the first place.


Even though it can be strange and nerve wracking to see our cats have hairballs, it’s perfect natural. If you think they are having them too often then contact your vet. Older cats and long hairs will get them more often than kittens or short haired felines. It can range from once ever 6-8 weeks to once every few months or even once a year. Chances are your cat is just fine and doing those normal and quirky cat things.

Have any crazy hairball stories? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or the comments below!

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