Cat Cough VS Hairball

icon June 2, 2023

Cats can exhibit coughing and hacking behavior for various reasons, including the presence of hairballs. However, it's important to distinguish between a cat cough and a hairball, as they have different causes and characteristics. Here's an overview of the differences:


Cat Cough: A cough in cats can be caused by respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, heart disease, or other underlying medical conditions. It typically involves the lungs, bronchial tubes, or trachea.

Hairball: Hairballs occur when a cat ingests loose hair while grooming itself. The accumulated hair forms a mass in the stomach, which the cat tries to expel by vomiting or coughing. Hairballs are a natural part of a cat's grooming behavior.

Sound and Appearance

Cat Cough: A cat cough may sound like a dry, hacking sound, similar to a human cough. The cat may exhibit repeated coughing episodes and may even retch or gag during or after coughing.

Hairball: When a cat is trying to eliminate a hairball, the coughing sound is often accompanied by a distinctive retching or gagging sound. The cat may appear to be trying to bring something up from their throat.

Frequency and Timing

Cat Cough: A cough caused by an underlying respiratory condition or illness may occur intermittently or persistently. The frequency and timing may vary depending on the specific cause.

Hairball: Hairballs are typically an occasional occurrence in cats. Cats may experience hairballs more frequently during shedding seasons or if they groom themselves excessively.

Other Symptoms

Cat Cough: Depending on the underlying cause, a cat cough may be accompanied by other symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or lethargy.

Hairball: Besides the coughing and gagging, cats with hairballs may show no other symptoms and generally remain active and normal.

If you notice your cat coughing frequently or if the cough is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Read more: How to Help Cats with Hairballs

Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

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