Whilst the occasional hairball in a long-haired breed like the Maine Coon is to be expected, generally speaking, cat hairballs should not be a regular occurrence.
Hairballs are a natural byproduct of cats grooming themselves but can be prevented if you follow the tips detailed below.
Long-haired cat breeds like the Maine Coon are prone to hairballs because their fur is long and thick. When cats groom themselves they ingest loose hairs into their stomach. Most dead hairs pass through the cat’s digestive system without issue. However, when hairs build up in a Maine Coon cat’s digestive tract this causes them to vomit hairballs.
Read on to learn how to help a cat suffering from hairballs, and how to prevent them in the first place!
Table Of Contents
Hairballs In Maine Coons
The Maine Coon is a long-haired cat breed with a dense fur coat made up of three layers. These layers have proved effective at helping to insulate them against the cold Winter climate of Maine, where they originate.
Unfortunately, however, having a lot of hair also works against this popular cat breed, since Maine Coon cats are more prone to developing hairballs than short-haired cat breeds.
A cat hairball is a clump of fur that has built up in the cat’s stomach or narrow esophagus as a result of the cat fastidiously grooming their longer hair with their tongues.
Unlike many animal tongues, cat tongues are relatively dry, and contain tiny hooks that make the tongue feel like sandpaper. As the cat grooms itself, these tiny hooks:
- Pick up debris
- Comb through tangles
- Remove loose fur
Cats cannot digest their own fur, therefore, if cats swallow a lot of fur some of it can get stuck in the cat’s digestive system and cause intestinal blockages, or serious health problems.
To expel a hairball, cats retch or cat vomit until the hairball is removed (source 1).
Whilst most cat hairballs are the result of your cat’s grooming habits, hairballs can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
If pet parents notice frequent hairballs or increasingly large hairballs, they should contact their vet ASAP so that their cat can have a physical examination.
Another cause of Maine Coon hairballs is excessive grooming. Older cats with medical issues are more prone to excessively licking their fur if they feel they cannot keep their coat clean.
To help prevent hairballs in Maine Coons, cat owners should brush their large cat’s coat 2-3 times a week to remove the dead hair that may have become tangled in the cat’s thick fur.
Without the owner’s assistance, a Maine Coon will swallow their loose hair, which will then sit in the cat’s digestive system and result in hairball formation.
Cat coughing is a common sign of a Maine Coon hairball issue.
What Causes Hairballs In Cats?
Cats with short, fine coats or cats who are groomed regularly are less likely to experience hairballs.
If you’ve noticed your furry friend suffers from hairballs, below are six causes of hairballs in cats:
1. Natural Causes
In most cases, hairballs are perfectly natural and an inevitable part of a cat grooming their excess hair.
Fur builds up in a cat’s digestive tract as it swallows loose fur while grooming. Eventually, the buildup is big enough that the cat has to vomit the hairball out of its system.
2. Skin Conditions
If you are wondering why is my cat suddenly having hairballs, it could be due to an underlying medical problem, like a skin condition.
Dry skin, parasites, and other skin problems can cause irritated skin, shedding or hair loss.
If your cat is grooming itchy patches of skin or shedding more than usual, it will consequently ingest more fur which causes an increased number of hairballs.
3. Digestive Problems
If your cat is suffering from any of the following health concerns, or any other problem that affects the gastrointestinal tract, this can also lead to hairballs:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD
- Food Allergies
- Internal Parasites
Cats not eating enough fiber in their diet may also have a harder time passing fur naturally through their digestive system, in turn causing more fur to build up over time.
Cats are fastidious cleaners that regularly groom their fur to keep their coat clean.
If your Maine Coon is stressed or bored, however, they may overgroom as a self-soothing mechanism. Unfortunately, this can result in more:
- Dry Skin
- Bald Patches
These are the key signs that your Maine Coon is stressed.
Your feline friend is highly flexible, which allows them to groom every part of their body.
However, overweight Maine Coons may have difficulty reaching certain areas of their coat, resulting in a buildup of dead, loose fur tangled within their thick coat.
If your cat ingests more clumps of fur than usual, this can lead to an increase in hairballs.
6. Improper Grooming
Long-haired cats like the Maine Coon require regular grooming by their pet parents to keep their coats in good condition.
To reduce yucky hairball issues, Maine Coons should be brushed two to three times a week, plus more during shedding seasons to help reduce the amount of hair your cat swallows.
If you are not sure which brushes work best on long-haired breeds, try these awesome cat brushes specifically for the job.
Regular grooming is time-consuming, therefore, if you do not have time to groom a Maine Coon regularly, seek assistance from a professional groomer.
Symptoms Of Hairballs In Cats
There are not usually any signs that a cat is about to produce a hairball unless that hairball is particularly large, or has been trapped in the cat’s digestive system for a long time.
Pet parents will only know their cat has coughed up a hairball if they:
- Witness it happening
- Hear their Maine Coon throw up
- Discover a hairball on the floor
In severe cases, the hairball can get stuck resulting in a potentially life-threatening blockage. If this happens, it signals a more serious health issue is going on.
Below are the warning signs to look out for that signify your cat is dealing with a hairball blockage:
Abnormal Bowel Movements
If your cat is dealing with constipation or cat diarrhea, this could be a sign that your cat has a blockage.
Cats in pain often sit in a hunched position without moving, whereas other cats may purr as a self-soothing mechanism.
Cats suffering from pain are more likely to lash out aggressively if they are touched.
If you have noticed your cat lying down a lot, rather than being physically active like usual this might indicate a possible health problem.
Furthermore, if your cat seems less aware of its surroundings or barely acknowledges you when you call its name, offer treats, or bring out its favorite cat toy, speak to an approved vet ASAP.
If a cat is constantly gagging or retching they may have a hairball blockage.
Some cats may expel nothing, whereas other cats might vomit a small level of solids or liquids without much hair.
If your cat has a lack of appetite and refuses to eat alongside any of the other symptoms listed above, take your cat to the vet immediately so they can have veterinary medicine i.e. mild laxatives, to help them expel the foreign object from their body.
A cat refusing to eat often indicates a serious medical problem that requires urgent treatment (source 1).
How Often Do Cats Have Hairballs?
The average cat gets hairballs once a month, whereas other cats never experience hairballs at all. If your cat is prone to hairballs, expect to see hairballs every one or two weeks.
Contact your vet if your cat is producing hairballs more than once a week as this could be a sign that something more serious is going on.
Are Cat Hairballs Normal?
Cat hairballs are usually perfectly normal, and considered the most common medical complaint among domestic cats after a study purported that 35% of cat owners reported hairballs.
The majority of cats naturally swallow a lot of fur as they groom themselves, which builds up in the cat’s digestive tract until it is big enough to be expelled whereby the process restarts!
In some cases, however, Maine Coon hairballs are not a sign of a healthy cat, but instead caused by the following health issues:
- Digestive Problems
- Underlying Medical Issues
If your cat’s hairballs began suddenly, or have become larger or more frequent over time, contact your vet for advice.
Best Hairball Remedy For Maine Coon Cats
If you are sick of cleaning up after your cat, make sure you take a look at this hairball treatment for cats to find remedies for your cat’s hairballs:
One of the most common vet-recommended hairball remedies is this hairball remedy lotion sold on Amazon.
All you have to do is put a 1/2 inch strip in the cat’s mouth, or on their paw for them to lick.
My personal experience of this lotion has been positive, though it did take a little bit of encouragement to get our two Maine Coons to try it when they experienced hairballs during the shedding season.
Since our cats are quite timid I found success placing the lotion in a bowl when they were both hungry, and then waited for them to lick up the medicine before giving them both a treat.
Some vets find that the best hairball remedy for cats is laxatives.
However, use laxatives with caution and only if approved by your vet because they can cause dehydration, plus complicate existing medical problems.
One of the best hairball gels for cats is Vetoquinol Laxatone, which you can buy using this Amazon link.
Always speak to your vet first before introducing any medications or supplements to your cat’s diet.
The best natural hairball remedy for cats is to encourage them to drink lots of fresh water since many cats do not drink enough water even if they are dehydrated.
If your cat is not interested in drinking more water, these wet cat foods are a great way to hydrate your cat and help them pass unwanted hairballs.
Vets often recommend fiber supplements that ease your cat’s digestive system and make it easier for fur and food to pass through (source 1).
Homemade Hairball Remedy
Some hairball remedies on the internet suggest feeding your cat natural ingredients like olive oil, butter, or lard to help your cat’s digestive system. Before trying these tips make sure your vet approves.
Alternatively, feed your Maine Coon foods high in fiber such as pumpkin, carrot, or apple, to increase the amount of fiber in your cat’s diet. This should ease their Maine Coon hairballs.
Cat grass is also a common solution and is also a great way to provide some extra enrichment for your cat!
How To Prevent Hairballs In Cats
If you are sick of cleaning up cat hairball vomit then you will probably want to know how to stop cats from having hairballs.
Here are the best ways you can prevent hairballs in your cat:
1. Regular Brushing
Brushing your Maine Coon’s fur 2-3 times a week with a slicker brush will significantly reduce the amount of cat fur that your feline ingests as it grooms itself.
This technique may even eliminate hairballs if you groom your cat’s fur consistently.
If you are wondering how to prevent hairballs in cats naturally, ensure your cat has an adequate fiber dietary intake.
3. Hairball Diet
If you are looking for food to prevent hairballs in cats, try cat food brands like these Hairball Control Diet For Cats sold on Amazon.
Cat Cough Vs Hairball
Cats make a lot of odd sounds that make it difficult for pet parents to work out if they are:
- Throwing Up
- Vomiting A Hairball
The difference between cat cough and hairball can be difficult to deduce.
Generally speaking, a cat cough is quieter than a human cough and may sound like a sneeze. The cat will not sound like it is gagging or retching. By comparison, a cat suffering from Maine Coon hairballs may retch and gag.
Cats with asthma have longer bouts of coughing. They typically assume a hunched position and cough with their neck extended.
How Long Does It Take For A Cat To Pass A Hairball?
Cats usually pass ingested fur through their stools within seven to twelve hours.
If the fur they ingest accumulates in the cat’s digestive tract though, it may take a day or two for the cat to finally throw up the hairball with digestive juices.
When a cat is gagging like they are about to pass a hairball, the hairball is usually expelled within a few minutes.
If you notice continuous gagging that does not produce a hairball, however, this is likely the result of a large hairball that has become stuck. Take your cat to the vet immediately.
How To Help A Cat With A Hairball
If you are wondering how to help a cat cough up a hairball, unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to help your cat vomit the hairball.
Cats repeatedly retching or gagging but not producing a hairball are likely suffering from intestinal blockages.
The best way to help your cat is by taking them to the vet immediately.
Can Hairballs Be Dangerous For Cats?
So, are hairballs dangerous to cats?
Generally speaking, hairballs are usually harmless but can be fatal if your Maine Coon is suffering from a hairball disease.
Furthermore, if the hairball gets too big or passes into the small intestine it can turn into a blockage that disrupts your cat’s digestive system and even causes death.
If you are wondering when to worry about a hairball, look for the following signs:
- Constant gagging
- Vomiting solids and liquids with no hair
- Abdominal Pain
How To Tell If Your Cat Has A Hairball Stuck
If your cat is trying to cough up a hairball but cannot seem to expel it, the hairball might be stuck in your cat’s stomach or digestive tract.
Signs your cat’s hairball is stuck:
1. Weight Loss
If a cat’s hairball is stuck for a long period it can make it difficult for your cat to eat properly, resulting in weight loss.
If your cat is gagging or retching frequently but has not coughed up a hairball, the hairball could be stuck.
3. Digestive Problems
Your cat may become constipated or develop cat diarrhea as the hairball affects your cat’s gastrointestinal system.
Your cat may appear tired, lying down a lot without any interest in food or playing. If lethargy continues for an abnormally long time, take your cat to the vet.
5. Abdominal Pain
When a cat’s hairball gets stuck your cat may feel pain at the site of the blockage. If you notice your cat sitting in a hunched position, it could be in pain.
Hairballs in Maine Coons are often completely natural, but in some cases, they can be fatal.
If your Maine Coon has regular hairball problems your vet may prescribe them laxatives, lubricant, or fiber.
Unfortunately, there is no known way to make a cat cough up their furball quickly. If you suspect the hairball has become blocked in your cat’s digestive system, take your cat to the vet ASAP.