Hairballs in Cats (Trichobezoar)

It is not uncommon for our cats to vomit hairballs without any further signs. These hairballs are also known as a trichobezoar. Usually, this is a harmless symptom. How do you explain how such hairballs come about and in which rare cases they can be dangerous for your fur nose?

How are Hairballs Made in Cats?

Hairballs are particularly common in cats, unlike dogs. This is due to the fact that our velvet paws are very thorough in cleaning their fur. The rough tongue of the cat detaches loose hair from the fur. This swallows our velvet paw. If the cat swallows a particularly large amount of hair at once, hairballs will form in the stomach.

Often one cannot find an exact cause why these hairballs are forming. The cases, however, increase at times of coat change (in the spring months) or in cat breeds with long fur.

Sometimes cats also show increased swallowing of hair due to a lack of raw fiber in the food. In the context of other underlying diseases (e.g. hyperthyroidism), hairballs occasionally develop, as they affect the cat’s coat, among other things.

How Can I Prevent Hairballs?

To prevent hairballs from forming in your cat, you should ensure that you eat a balanced diet with sufficient raw fiber content. You can also remove loose hair while you are changing your coat by brushing your velvet paw regularly. As a result, your cat will swallow less hair when cleaning its fur.

How Do I Recognize Trichobezoar in Cats?

As soon as you notice a decrease in food and water consumption in your cat, if it shows a significantly weakened general condition or has pain when palpating its abdomen, you should consult a veterinarian immediately. It is also advisable to telephone the veterinarian beforehand about the imminent visit so that he can prepare everything necessary for an emergency situation.

In order to diagnose an acute change in the position of the gastrointestinal tract caused by the hairball in the cat, the vet scans the abdominal region during the circulatory stabilization measures. If the cat reacts painfully and the abdominal wall is very tense, this is a sign that something is happening in the abdomen.

Changes in the position of the gastrointestinal tract include in particular:

  • Torsion of the stomach (torso ventriculi) with inflation (tympany)
  • An incomplete or complete intestinal obstruction (ileus)

With the help of imaging methods such as X-rays, the veterinarian is also able to take a closer look at the organs of the abdominal cavity. Administration of contrast media can also rule out intestinal obstruction.

Frequently, blood is taken from the cat if Trichobezoar is suspected, as, for example, an increased lactate value is a sign of a change in the position of the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment of Hairballs

The therapy of hairballs depends on the size and location of the hairball, so a distinction must be made between conservative and surgical treatment:

  • Conservative: If a foreign body is found in the stomach during the diagnosis, accumulated gas can be released from the stomach by means of a pharynx. If an X-ray shows that the hairball is very small, it can be treated without surgery and with the administration of oral lubricants (e.g. paraffin oil) or laxative drugs (e.g. metoclopramide).
  • Surgical: Hairballs that are too large must be surgically removed. Such an operation should then be performed as soon as possible.


Most hairballs are removed from the stomach by gagging or vomiting without incident. If this is no longer possible due to the size of the cat’s trichobezoars, a veterinarian should be consulted at an early stage so that they can prevent worse things from happening.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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