Hairballs: what are they and how to prevent them

Feb 16, 2022

Why do cats lick themselves?

Cats are very special animals; all feline mothers and fathers surely know that. Cats know how to mark their times, both for the good and for the bad, but we agree that they are authentic beings of love and affection. They can also be very independent and carry out daily activities autonomously without our help. In fact, cleanliness is something that differentiates them from other animals since they pay special attention to this aspect. From the use of the litter box to daily grooming, cats carry it out independently, with unquestionable perseverance.

When cats lick themselves, they are basically cleaning themselves and leaving their fur nice and shiny. For this reason, it is not necessary to bathe them as it is with dogs since they can do this self-management by themselves. It is an activity that they carry out daily, in fact, they spend between 7 and 12 hours each day, so it is one of the actions that they spend the most time apart from sleeping. The fact of doing it is the most normal thing in the world, otherwise, if they didn’t, it would be a sign of alarm, so we should urgently visit our trusted veterinarian. During grooming, their rough tongues drag dead hair, and since they are unable to spit it out, the hair ends up entering the animal’s digestive tract.

Formation of hairballs

The hair accumulated in the digestive tract of our cat will normally be expelled through the feces, but if it accrues too much, it can end up forming the well-known hairballs. It is an accumulation of dead hair that a cat has ingested during the grooming of its fur, creating structures that are later expelled by coughing or vomiting. The danger of hairballs will always depend on the type of cat’s hair and its size. It is normal for cats with long hair to remove these balls, since they will take in more hair and we must always act to stimulate their digestion. Short-haired cats should not expel them at any time, and if they do, we must immediately act.

Normally with the diet and other tricks we can help our cat without setting off the alarms. The problem is if these episodes happen daily, if the expelled balls are large, or if we begin to detect disorders in our cat. It may be more typical in cats with long hair, or at times of shedding, where the hair loss is more pronounced, so the intake of it will be greater. Shedding times for cats are during spring and autumn, and this is when our feline will lose more hair, so there is more risk that hairballs could be a problem. It is at this time of year that we have to help them to the maximum to avoid the accumulation of hair in the stomach and be more observant than ever and attentive to any sign of the problem.

Warning signs

As we have mentioned, if our cat expels hairballs occasionally, we must activate the alert and explore ways to help our furry one to have better digestion since the generation and subsequent expulsion of balls is something negative for their health.

The alarms will go off when the hairballs become a recurring thing or are too big. To identify it, we must be observant with our cat, we will begin to notice that they are dull or more apathetic, that they do not eat the same, that they show frequent retching, regurgitation and vomiting in which they expel liquid and food, constipation, or diarrhea. What could be happening is that the hairball has grown too much (sometimes they can reach 12 cm) and cannot be expelled either through the feces, or through coughing or vomiting. The hairball will be obstructing the digestive system of our cat, and this can be life-threatening. We must urgently visit a veterinarian so that he can check them well, and in case of having hairballs that are too large, undergo an emergency operation to save their life.

However, before this happens, we can be careful to avoid these dreaded hairballs in the first place. In long-haired cats we will always apply these tips. In short-haired cats, it will not be necessary unless a ball is expelled, even occasionally.

Tips to avoid the formation of hairballs in our cat

Gosbi Malt

Gosbi Malt for cats is a product designed to prevent the generation of hairballs in the digestive system of cats due to the dragging action of insoluble fiber. It is a highly palatable oral paste made with malt extract, arbocel, taurine, vitamin E and rich in fatty acids.

Specifically, arbocel is a differential ingredient, made from registered cellulose powder. The anti-ball capacity shown by this component is much higher when compared to other soluble and insoluble fibers. This ingredient forms a network of insoluble fiber that prevents the union of hair fibers in the stomach, favoring passage to the duodenum and elimination through the stool, at the same time, speeding up intestinal transit.

To administer malt to your cat, it is convenient to know how much you should give it and how often. The optimal amount will be between 2 and 5 centimeters, and we will give it from the onset of symptoms. Once we notice that our cat is gagging or shows signs of having a hairball, we will administer the indicated amount, and later, after a few days, we will give another booster dose. In long-haired cats with a tendency to generate these balls, we can give them recurrently between 1 and 3 times a week, as a preventive measure.

To administer the malt, you can put it directly in your cat’s food, or if not, take advantage of the inertia they have to keep themselves clean, and apply the recommended dose to their paw. Most likely, they will not take long to lick it off and the malt will be ingested. Being a highly palatable food supplement, there are cats that will enjoy taking it, so we could also administer it directly from the container.

Here you can find Gosbi Malt.


We know that diet is a key element in the life of any living being, and our cats would be no less. There are recipes in Gosbi specially designed to help prevent the generation of hairballs.

Gosbi Original Sterilized Hairball is a complete cat food with premium quality natural ingredients. This food is specially designed to facilitate the evacuation of hairballs through the digestive tract thanks to the specific content of vegetable fibers (6% fiber). In addition, the contribution of taurine helps keep the heart in optimal health and promotes good vision.

Fiber, in addition to helping with the digestion of hairballs, also provides a greater satiating effect to our furry ones, acquiring greater control of appetite and guaranteeing healthy intestinal function.

You can find Gosbi Sterilized Hairball here.


Brushing is the basic daily care that will help reduce the amount of hair that your cat will ingest when grooming. If we do it vigorously and regularly, we will help remove a lot of dead hair that would otherwise end up in the kitten’s digestive tract. That is why it is important to get our kittens used to brushing from an early age. If we start doing it when they are adults, it will surely be a little more complicated, but the most normal thing is that they end up getting used to it, since brushing is not too far from caressing with the hand.

Cats of long-haired breeds will be an essential habit, as with older cats, since, with old age, the latter will not have the same energy to carry out grooming in the most effective way.

In conclusion…

In summary, we have learned that grooming is one of the most recurrent activities of cats. To do so, they lick their fur and due to the impossibility of spitting hair out, they end up ingesting it, which will be expelled at the end of digestion through feces.

However, there may be an accumulation of hair in the digestive tract for different reasons: the breed of our cat, the season of the year, or digestive difficulties. In long-haired cats this will be more normal, so we must carry out a series of preventive care to prevent these hairballs from ending up becoming a risk to our best friend. Short-haired cats should never expel hairballs. If they do, we must apply the same guidelines as long-haired cats to avoid any danger.

The warning signs that will indicate the need to go to the vet are frequent gagging, lack of appetite, if we see our kitten dull or weaker, constipation, or diarrhea. At this point, our cat will surely have a stranded hairball that will be hindering its digestion and can put its life at risk.

However, before reaching this extreme situation, we can apply a series of guidelines in food and daily habits that will help prevent hairballs:

  • Cat malt
  • Specialized anti-hairball diet
  • Daily brushing

With this, we will prevent our cat from ingesting more hair than it should, avoiding situations that could endanger it. Even so, the veterinarian will always be the best expert and the one who will know our cat best. They will be the best person to advise us on how to deal with hairballs and will give us some guidelines to follow to guarantee a healthy and happy life for our cat.