Cat Fur Ball Gag or Something Worse. Why is my Cat Gagging.

A cat fur ball gag is a familiar sound to a pet owner. Particularly when your cat is a long haired breed. Cats are always grooming and if your long haired cat is not brushed regularly, she can gag and retch up furballs frequently. What cat owner hasn’t unwittingly stepped in a puddle of slimy, gooey furball at one point or another? Usually in the middle of the night, in the dark! All cats are subject to furballs from time to time.

cat hair ball


It could be as simple as excess saliva brought on by a very content cat purring. It could be a fur ball. One of the craziest stories about housecat fur balls is of a cat that was suspected of having a large mass. The mass turned out to be a hairball the size of two cricket balls. That mess had to be surgically removed. Please don’t let it get to that point!

There was a tiger in Florida that had a furball the size of a basketball. He didn’t eat for two weeks and they let it go on like that in the hopes that his body would consume it in the absence of food. It did not and the furball had to be surgically removed. Ripley’s Believe it or Not has that story on record.


Furballs, as you’ve just read, can be serious. But your cat’s gagging could also be the sign of something much more serious.

Fur balls are an occasional event. If gagging, heaving or retching goes on without producing anything and for more than a few minutes, it may be something that is potentially dangerous for your cat. Other common reasons for gagging include; foreign bodies in the throat or airway, masses or tumors, nodules on the thyroid due to hyperthyroidism, a bacterial infection in the sinuses producing mucous or post nasal drip. If the cat has encountered feline roundworms and swallowed some, the larvae may work their way up the windpipe and cause gagging or coughing.

In the case that it is not a cat fur ball gag, a trip to the vet is a good idea, sooner than later. You vet can palpate your cat’s throat and chest feeling for masses. Check nasal passages for mucous and clear them out with a saline solution. At the same time, he may want to run a culture to rule out a bacterial infection. It could be a matter of a course of antibiotics that will do the trick. A stuffy, gooey nose can also happen if there is a foreign body up Kitty’s nose.

Your vet is better at finding and removing something like that than you are. If there is a foreign body lodged in your cat’s throat or airway, the only way to find it might be an x-ray. But very small things might not show up on an x-ray of the throat alone. The vet may need to take more than one x-ray. If he hasn’t found anything yet, he will probably want to run some blood tests to rule out kidney or liver disease, infectious disease and check for dehydration.


This was the course that my wife and I had to follow for our cat Leo who went through a period of constant unproductive gagging. We took him to the vet when we noticed that he had started to eat his cat litter. Unfortunately for him x-rays produced the diagnosis that he was at an advanced stage of lung cancer which couldn’t be treated. We had no other option but to have him euthanased when he stopped eating.


If your cat’s problem has brought you to the vet, you were probably compelled to do so because your cat has become lethargic, stopped eating, is not pooping regularly or at all, not drinking water or a combination of these things. At this point, it is a very serious issue. Cats are attracted to rubber bands, tinsel, dental floss, string and when these items are ingested, they can cause a dangerous blockage of the esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract. If the cat has been elongating her throat or pawing at her mouth, she may have something lodged in her mouth, throat or esophagus.

If you are not getting a satisfactory diagnosis, you might want to get a second, even third opinion. Time is of the essence. Any of the above mentioned scenarios can quickly become deadly if not diagnosed and treated properly.

The best case scenario is that your vet finds the source of the problem and puts together a course of treatment that sets your cat on the road to recovery. Now, depending on the cause of the original problem, you can go about making sure this never happens again. Cats are curious creatures. If the source of the problem was an item that was ingested or somehow lodged in the throat, esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract, you need to check the area where your cat has been spending time and make sure there are no enticing items within her reach.

Bacterial infections can be difficult to tame. A thorough cleaning of bedding, toys and feeding bowls with a good disinfectant may help stop the recurrence of infection.

As much as your cat may detest visits to the vet, regular check-ups are vital to maintaining your cat’s health and early detection of potential health threats.

cat hair ball

You will most likely continue to hear the occasional furball gag from your cat. She is a fastidious groomer and furballs are going to happen. You can help her get rid of furballs by providing oils, such as fish oils, in the diet, an occasional dose of Laxatone or Petramalt if you have noticed heavy licking and grooming and of course, regular brushing and grooming by you.


Cats are wonderful companion animals. Many people refer to them as “low maintenance pets”. This does not mean NO maintenance pets. Cats require affection, a regular routine and a watchful eye to look out for health issues. Most cats do not like others to spot illness and weakness in them and when they are sick or injured, can become quite reclusive. Dedicate some time every day to play and interaction with your cat. This is also the perfect time to bring out the brush. It is an enrichment exercise and will help you keep track of her health and well-being.