National Hairball Awareness Day: 9 Hairball Facts

hairball

Founded by Dr. Blake Hawley of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, National Hairball Awareness Day falls on the last Friday of April every year. That means that in 2025, it will land on April 25th. It may not be a day to celebrate exactly, but it’s a great opportunity for all cat owners to learn a bit more about hairballs and why your cat gets them.

As part of their daily cleaning routine, cats lick themselves. Because their tongue has a rough surface, it’s easy for cats to swallow the hairs and for some of these to collect in the stomach, forming hairballs. While hairballs are completely natural for cats, they can sometimes cause problems – and they’re none too pleasant for owners to deal with either!

To help shed some light on these not-so-pleasant clumps of fur, we’ve put together 9 facts about hairballs.

1. The scientific name for hairballs is trichobezoars

‘Trich’ is Greek for hair. ‘Bezoar’ is the word for a ball of undigested or partially digested material that has collected in the stomach. Put them together and voila!

2. Hair is indigestible

Hairballs are nature’s way of getting rid of any excess hair that hasn’t passed through the digestive system through the normal route – that is to say, it hasn’t ended up in their poo! Cats’ digestive enzymes can’t break down the keratin in their fur effectively. Usually, most of it will simply pass through the digestive system without being broken down, but whatever is left comes out the other way!

3. Hairballs are not balls

The hairballs that you’ll find around your home are shaped more like tubes. This is because the hairballs get elongated when they travel through your cat’s oesophagus on the way out. If we could see inside our cats’ tummies though, they would be more ball-shaped in there.

4. Some cats are more prone to hairballs than others

Breeds with long hair such as Persians and Maine Coons tend to produce significantly more hairballs than short-haired breeds. It’s not unusual for a cat to regurgitate a hairball once a week or every two weeks. But if your cat is producing more than one hairball per week, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your vet.

5. Cats are not the only animals to have hairballs

Dogs can occasionally get them too, and they are actually quite common in rabbits and cows. Both rabbits and cows are unable to vomit hairballs up like cats, however. In fact, any animal that grooms themselves or eats the fur of others is at risk of developing hairballs. They’ve even been known to occur in humans!

6. Hairballs can sometimes cause health problems

While the occasional hairball is completely normal, they can sometimes become so large they result in an intestinal blockage. This can prevent your cat from eating and cause them to become lethargic. If your cat refuses to eat or continues to hack without producing a hairball, make an appointment with your vet.

7. Diet makes a difference

If you notice your cat is regularly coughing up hairballs, consider switching to a specialist hairball food. These tend to contain more fibre and oil to help hair pass naturally through their digestive system. Dehydration can also result in more hairballs, so encouraging your cat to drink more water or feeding them a wet diet can help.

8. There is such a thing as ‘hairball season’

Cats groom all year round but they may consume more hair during spring and autumn during their shedding seasons. You can help to reduce loose hair by regularly brushing or combing your cat. You might also notice your cat producing more hairballs during spells of hot weather. Not only will cats shed more, but they tend to lick themselves more too as a way to cool down.

9. Not all coughing sounds are necessarily hairballs

It’s important not to write off all the unpleasant sounds your cat makes as being caused by a harmless hairball. Sometimes hacking, coughing or retching sounds can be caused by something else, and could be a sign of an underlying condition. If your cat regularly makes noises like they are coughing up a hairball, but none come up, see a vet.

Wrapping Up

National Hairball Awareness Day is a great time to raise awareness about this well-known feline behaviour. While hairballs in cats are completely natural, it’s important to know what is normal for your cat when it comes to their hairballs. If they are coughing up more than normal, or they show other signs of being unwell, it’s important to see a vet. Some cats also produce hairballs more frequently than others, which can start to be quite unpleasant for owners. For advice on reducing hairballs and warning signs to look out for, read our blog, How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats Naturally.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker