Skip to Content

Why A Cat Hairball Looks Like Poop, And How To Help

Why A Cat Hairball Looks Like Poop, And How To Help

Regardless of their breed, all cats are very meticulous and tend to clean and tidy their fur. This is one of the many reasons why it is wonderful to have a cat as a pet!

During grooming and licking, the cat takes a large amount of hair into its stomach, which can potentially lead to issues if it becomes stuck in their digestive tract. Hairballs are actually clumps of cat hair that have been decomposed by the cat and remain in her stomach.

Long-haired cats are more prone to the formation of hairballs due to the greater amount of hair. In a large number of cases, the cat will throw up the swallowed hair, which can be quite unpleasant for her.

During this process, you might notice the specific shape of the hairball, which prompts you to ask: Why a cat hairball looks like poop?

Let’s find out the answer to this question, as well as ways to help your cat stop struggling with hairballs.

Why Does a Cat Hairball Look Like Poop?

cat vomiting in grass

Seeing a cat throwing up a hairball for the first time might be quite surprising, especially for novice owners.

You certainly didn’t expect your cat’s vomit to look like poop! Well, in most cases, a cat’s hairball doesn’t actually come out in the shape of a ball, but rather in a sausage-shaped tube.

Except for the hair, it might also have some fluid on. The hairballs end up looking like this after passing through the cat’s digestive tract. They are usually around one inch thick, and can be long anywhere between 1-5 inches.

Beside the sausage shape, the brown color makes the hairball look like feces. Furthermore, it might also have an unpleasant odor.

While not a pleasant sight, it’s quite likely for every cat owner to witness a hairball that resembles feces at least once in their furry companion’s life.

Are Hairballs Dangerous For Cats?

As PetMD explains, a cat’s fur is mostly made of keratin, which makes it indigestible for felines, since their gastrointestinal tract isn’t able to break it down.

In most cases, your cat will be able to expel the hairball on its own. However, sometimes this will not be possible, since there will be too much of the hair in her gastrointestinal tract, tangling into large clumps. This accumulation of hair can even threaten a cat’s health.

For example, if the hairball is located at the entrance and exit of the cat’s stomach, this can cause a reduced appetite and even a complete blockage of the cat’s digestive system.

Hairballs located in the small intestine are particularly dangerous, as they can shift position and cause intestinal blockages.

In these situations, it’s essential that you take the cat to the vet as soon as possible, so that he can examine it and diagnose the problem. 

This is what you should do as soon as you see your cat coughing and gagging, which is a sign she’s struggling to expel something from her GI tract.

As already mentioned, long-haired cats are at higher risk of hairball problems, but, Barrs and his associates [1] imply how there are some other predisposing factors, such as ingestion of non-digestible plant material, flea allergy dermatitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

How Are Hairballs Treated?

The veterinarian will primarily prescribe fluid replacement as well as medications to protect the function of the cat’s intestinal tract.

Furthermore, the use of laxatives is recommended in order to get the hairball moving in the cat’s digestive system, and so that she is able to expel it through the stool.

In cases where no other option is viable, surgical intervention may become necessary to access the cat’s intestines and remove the hairball.

Can Hairballs In Cats Be Prevented?

woman grooming the cat

It’s possible to prevent, or, at least, decrease the possibility of hairball in your cat.

Follow these steps to help your cat avoid this annoying issue:

1. Brush Your Cat’s Coat Regularly

If you brush your cat’s fur regularly, there will be less chance for her to swallow excess hair.

In addition to significantly reducing the possibility of hairballs, your cat’s fur will look well-groomed and shiny.

Also, this is a great way for the two of you to enjoy a routine together! It’s best to start brushing as soon as your kitty comes into your home, so that you can get her used to this process from an early age.

2. Feed Her With Appropriate Diet

A high-quality diet is essential for a cat’s health in general, and it’s also an important part of preventing hairball issues in them.

WebMD suggests that it’s a good idea to consider switching to a food specifically formulated to prevent hairballs. This type of food has ingredients that will stimulate the swallowed hair to pass through the cat’s digestive tract.

Additionally, increasing the fiber content in your cat’s diet can improve digestion. Foods rich in fiber, such as pumpkin, carrots, and apples, can aid in better movement through your cat’s digestive system.

If you plan to change anything in your cat’s diet, you should first consult a veterinarian on the best approach.

3. Make Sure Your Cat Is Feeling Safe And Protected

If there is something your cat is feeling stressed or anxious about, this can cause over-grooming in her, leading to increased possibility of hairballs.

Some cats might also over groom themselves due to lack of stimulation.

Therefore, you should make sure your cat is feeling safe and relaxed in your home. The most important thing here is to spend enough time with her, and give her enough physical and mental exercise. 

This is the best way to be sure your cat won’t become bored or show any type of destructive behavior.

If you do this, but your cat still over grooms herself, the best would be to consult a veterinarian.


woman cleaning hairball vomit stain and cat looking

Seeing a cat’s hairball can be surprising, and even disturbing, especially when it looks like a poop. 

However, you should know that this isn’t so rare in the feline world, and this is something probably every cat owner will see at least once.

A cat’s hairball looks like poop after it goes through the cat’s digestive tract, so, in general, this isn’t something you should worry about.

However, if this happens often, you should react and consult a veterinarian. It would be also good to take preventive steps to avoid hairballs, such as brushing your cat’s regularly, and providing her with a high-quality diet.


[1] Barrs VR, Beatty JA, Tisdall PL, Hunt GB, Gunew M, Nicoll RG, Malik R. Intestinal obstruction by trichobezoars in five cats. J Feline Med Surg. 1999 Dec;1(4):199-207. DOI, Retrieved August 22, 2023.

Read Next:
3 Reasons For A White Cat Poop, And Tips On How To Help

5 Reasons For Hair In Cat Poop With Tips How To Help