Why do Cats Spit Hairballs?


Numerous things worry pet owners, but one of the many things that not only scare cat owners is when they see their cats trying to spit hairballs. Their anxiety mounts as the cat begins to retch, gag, and make sounds signifying that it is in pain.   

Then, the questions that flood the minds of cat owners are “What are these hairballs?” “Where did they come from?” “Why does my cat spit hairballs?” “How can I help my cat?”

It is good to hear that cat hairball is something that can be effectively monitored. There are many ways it can be stopped. On that note, let us answer your questions in a jiffy. First, we need to learn what exactly cat hairballs are.

What are cat hairballs?

Cats are animals who are very concerned about cleanliness. No wonder cat owners like them a lot! In an effort to keep themselves clean, they engage in the process of “grooming”. Grooming occurs when cats try to keep themselves clean by licking their fur consistently. 

However, cats have sharp tongues with papillae made of Keratin (which are usually called “barbs”). These barbs have the same sharpness as our fingernails and teeth. The major purpose of these barbs is to hold their prey, but the secondary function is to groom themselves. 

Therefore, in the process of grooming, the barbs serve as the "hairbrush". In the same way we humans use hairbrushes that collect our hair while we comb, so do Cats collect hair with their hairbrushes (barbs).

But unfortunately, these barbs are on their tongue and they lick the hair gradually. Over some time, hair that has been collected through this process forms hairballs in them.

Having answered the question of what cat hairballs are and where they come from, let us examine why cats spit the hairballs they swallow during the process of grooming.

Causes of cats spitting hairballs

The reasons cats spit hairballs are not far-fetched. It can be inferred in the analysis I gave about how cats take in hairballs. Meanwhile, it is still very necessary to not generalize and establish why cats spit hairballs because the case differs for different cats.

1. Retained Hairballs

Generally, cat hairball goes out of their digestive system eventually. However, some of these hairballs are retained. Gradually, they form hairballs. When cats find it very disturbing, they begin to make efforts to cough it out by spitting. It is this process that may involve retching and trying to vomit the hairballs.

2. Excessive Grooming

When cats groom very consistently, which may be more times than usual, the amount of hair they take in through their “hair-brush” (Barbs) will be very much and before long, they have big cat hairballs that they are trying to spit. There are 2 reasons cats do excessive grooming:

Longhaired Cats

Just like we humans who have long or much hair take care of our hair more frequently, cats with long hair tend to groom more frequently because of the amount of their hair. Of course, they take in more hair in comparison to cats with short hair. This hair collects faster and even balls up more in them. Therefore, there is a consistent need to spit hairballs.


This is another major reason cats do excessive grooming. When there are parasites or bacteria under cats’ hairs, they tend to over-groom. However, this is not because they want to clean themselves. Rather, that they want to rid themselves of the infections that make them feel inconvenient.


How to Deal with The Problem of Cats Spitting Hairball?

Dealing with the problem of cats spitting hairball is not a herculean task at all. It is very advisable to get on it as possible. Below are a few things you can do:

1. Groom your cat

As I said, cats are very sensitive to dirt and they try as much as possible to get it off their body. Therefore, instead of waiting for them to go through the process of grooming themselves and consequently swallowing hair in the process, why not groom your cat consistently so it doesn’t have to do it at all? and even if it grooms, it will be once in a while.

It is even more advisable for people who have cats with long hair. To groom your cat, all you need to do is brush your cat’s fur (to remove dirt and dead hair), and once in a while, give your cat a proper bath. If you have problems doing this, there are ways to make your cat less resistant to bathing.

You can even hire a professional cat groomer if you find the process stressful.

This process prevents cats from frequently grooming themselves since the problem of uncleanliness has been taken out of the way, and once this happens, cats do not need to groom themselves and lick dead hair that forms cat hairballs in them and needs to spit out.

2. Check for infections

Cats overgroom when they have infections in their hair. You should check that your cat does not have any infections. Sometimes, you might not be able to tell, but there are ways to judge if your cat is ill or suffering from infections.

You might also need to take your cat to a Veterinary Clinic. This helps solve the problem of excessive grooming which makes cats lick hair so much that it collects hairballs in their digestive system.

How to help your cat spit hairballs?

There are mild laxative products that help your cat easily get out hairballs from their system. The process of spitting hairball is sometimes painful for cats. Most times, they have to go through retching, vomiting, and wincing to try to spit out hairballs.

Products like Tomlyn Laxtone Hairball Remedy, have been reviewed and said to have been trusted by pet owners for over 35 years.

It is without doubt, that if you put these methods into use, they will prevent your cat from taking in too many hairballs to spit, and making them easily get hairballs out of their system.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.