Why do cats swallow their fur and its remedy?

If you have a cat, then you may have witnessed them vomiting balls of hair. It often leaves first-time owners of cats scratching their heads. How and when did the cat ate so much of hair, and why?

We do not see other pets vomiting out hair balls. Why do cats do so?

Let’s find out the reason behind this perplexing phenomenon and find answers to some other questions related to this topic.

Table of Contents
  • Why do cats eat their hair?
  • Can eating hair cause harm to cats?
  • Best hairball remedy for cats

Why do cats eat their hair?

Well, cats do not eat or swallow their hair intentionally. Cats are very conscious of their hygiene and like to remain clean. They can be seen spending hours on grooming themselves by licking and cleaning their fur. Their tongue helps them to clean the dirt and untangle their hair.

This is what makes them a favourite pet of some people, who cannot tolerate the unclean living habits of some other pets, such as dogs. Probably, that’s why cats do not stink even on rainy days.

However, there’s a side-effect to this habit of theirs. While licking their fur they also tend to eat some of their hair unintentionally. This hair keeps on accumulating in their stomach for days, till one day they vomit it out.

To make matters worse, cats also lick other cats and their kittens a lot too. So, unintentionally cats end up swallowing a lot of hair every day.

Though this issue is there with all kinds of cats, however cats with long hair and thick fur coat face this problem more.

Can eating hair cause harm to cats?

Well cats do seem to be under some kind of distress when they try to vomit out the hair ball. But is it life-threatening, or can it cause some health issues?


Many a times, the expelled hair may not be in a shape of a ball, but rather in the shape of an elongated hot dog. Technical name of these hairballs is Trichobezoar.

Generally, it’s not an issue of concern. Cats expel all this hair in their faeces. And sometimes they vomit them out as hairballs.

However, sometimes all this hair may intermingle with the food they eat and block their digestive system. In such cases your cat will show some symptoms that are pretty easy to notice:

  • The most evident symptom will be a cat trying hard to vomit something out. Duh!
  • Persistent cough or gagging sounds. In some rare instances, they may choke to death, if not taken care of urgently.
  • They may lose their appetite, and/or act lethargic.
  • Signs of discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation, etc.

All this can develop into something serious if ignored. For example, hair may block their intestine too. Intestinal obstruction may block or hamper smooth passage of stool, and it may cause them extreme pain. This is rare but must be treated as soon as possible. It is an emergency and may prove life-threatening pretty soon. Take them to a vet immediately. Do not wait.


However, some cats can have asthma or some other breathing problem. It may cause them to cough.

Also, hairballs may cause a cat to vomit once or twice a month; maybe once a week, not more. If your cat is vomiting more often and things apart from hairball are coming out, then do consult a vet. She’s probably suffering from some other ailment.

Make sure you and your vet, monitor and check the cat sufficiently to find the accurate cause. Misdiagnosis of pet problems is a big issue.

So, we know the causes and probable repercussions of cats swallowing their hair. Now, let’s shed some light on its solution.

Best hairball remedy for cats

There are a few methods and tricks that we can use to solve this hairball issue.

Preventive methods

Well, precaution is the best cure. So, our first aim should be to not allow this problem to arise in the first place, or at least reduce its instances.

Regular Grooming

We should bathe and brush our cats regularly. It will remove all the dead hair and loose hair from their fur.

You should do this more often in the seasons when they shed. It will reduce their hairball problem drastically.

Also, as they will feel clean and their hair will remain untangled, they will not feel that much of a need to lick their fur all day long.

Good Diet

Diet has a lot of effect on cat’s hair. So, give them organic, natural and healthy food. It will make their fur healthy. Also ensure that they get enough fibre in their diet, which will help them pass the stool and hair with ease.

You may do some research on the internet for healthy diet of cats, You may also consult a vet for this purpose, especially if you are feeding her home-cooked food.

Oil consumption is good for cat’s skin. So, you may add a tablespoon of fish oil or olive oil to their diet. It will also aid their digestion, and smooth bowel movements.

Malt Paste

Malt paste is considered a very good solution to prevent hairball accumulation and improve intestinal transit of stool and hair. You may feed this to them directly, or put it on their fur coat and let them lick it from there.

Problem resolving Methods

But what if after doing everything, we see our cat facing hairball related problems. What can we do to resolve this issue once it arises?


There are many hairball formula capsules out there. They reduce the hairball problem by increasing the quality of the fur, or increasing fibre and so making it easier for the cats to pass the hair via their stool, etc. Do consult a vet and get the best medication for your cat.

Some medications are like Vaseline or laxative, which makes the hairball slippery. It helps the cat to pass the hairball with ease. But their effectiveness has been questioned by many experts. It may or may not work.

Anyways, you should go for medications only if your cat is facing acute or frequent hairball problems. We should try to adopt organic and natural methods for most of the medical issues, as far as possible.


If your cat is under a lot of distress, then take her to a vet as soon as possible. For example, if your cat has been coughing, retching, gagging for long without producing a hairball, then it means that probably it’s stuck and you have a problem at your hands. In rare cases, this issue may prove to be life-threatening. We cannot stress this enough.

Treating underlying causes

Sometimes, excessive licking and the subsequent accumulation of hair in a cat’s stomach may be just a symptom of another underlying disease.

If your cat is anxious or is in some kind of pain, it may tend to lick its fur more often, i.e. it will indulge in excessive self-grooming to divert its mind from other distressing factors.

Even boredom may cause it. Cats are active creatures and when they have nothing else to do, they may invest that time to groom themselves. That’s probably one of the reasons why hairball vomiting issue is found more among indoor cats than outdoor stray cats.

Sometimes, some skin conditions or fleas in the fur of a cat may force them to lick it again and again. You will need to recognize these problems and rectify them. Make sure your cat gets a clean and hygienic lifestyle and is not stressed.

Cat hairball stuck

Sometimes, cats may find it really hard to vomit out or pass hairball. It may get stuck in their throat. Sometimes, they may start chocking. There’s no time for us to take them to a vet in such cases. This is an extreme emergency. What can we do to help them in such cases?

In such cases:

  • You should restrain the cat i.e. hold them tightly. It will ensure that they do not panic,
  • Open their mouth and see if the blockage is visible. If possible, try to slowly remove it by hand. However, do not try to pull out their body parts. If you panic, then you may end up doing more harm than good. It’s important that you know how the insides of your cat’s mouth looks like under normal circumstances. It will help you identify any foreign obstacle quickly.
  • You can also give them abdominal thrusts, just as we do when a human is chocking. Make a fist, and push it “in and up” just below the rib-cage (the thumb side of the fist should be touching the cat’s stomach, i.e. the softer part, not the knuckles). However, do not punch them in the process.
  • Keep on checking your cat’s mouth in between. Pull out any obvious obstacle, if its visible. Use your hand or some tool (it should not be sharp). But do not poke around too much if you cannot see anything. Go to the vet ASAP.

Even if the above steps do work, do take the cat to the vet anyways. This is not a normal situation and might reoccur. So, you need to share and discuss this issue with your vet and get your cat properly inspected.

Also, your efforts (like abdominal thrusts) may have hurt the cat a bit, and that too has to be checked by the vet.

Kindly Note

While you are giving the cat the above first aid, make sure that someone in your family or your friend calls up the vet. Or ideally put the cat in your car and give this first aid while you are on the way to the vet.

It may save your cat’s life, just in case you fail in your efforts. Always plan a backup!

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