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Hairball Remedies for Cats

Updated on March 23, 2009
by matuzalems
by matuzalems

What Causes Hairballs?

The of the common problems with cat owners is not necessarily jumping on the counter, but hairballs. It's a pain in the rear-end to wake up with your cat hacking on the bed or floor in your room, and it's even worse if you don't hear the hacking and you step in it the next morning. Hairballs are not only a discomfort for cats but for humans, too.

Basically, when your cat grooms himself, he swallows some of the fur, which must go through the digestive system, to include the intestines and stomach, which is where it can pose a problem- impaction- as food gets backed up and the body cannot digest it.

Since hair is not digestible, it can sit in the gastrointestinal tract and if impaction develops before the cat can dislodge the hairball, a trip to the vet may be necessary to surgically remove the hairball and undigested food that is causing your cat immense pain and constipation.

But anway, the hairballs essentially get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract because there just isn't enough lubrication to move the hair through the stomach, intestines, and out the body.

Common signs of a hairball problem include:

  • Cigar-shaped masses on the floor or furniture where your cat is throwing up the hairballs that his body can't digest.
  • Constipation or hard stool
  • Depression
  • Dry, matted coat
  • Frequent coughing and hacking
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy

If you think that your cat may have a hairball problem, you want to try the following cat hairball remedies before your cat has a more serious problem.

Treating Hairballs in Cats

There are many options when trying to prevent and treat hairballs, some of which will work better than others for your cat. You will need to find the best method of treating hairballs for your cat. Consider the following options.

Hairball Formula Diet: You can purchase specially formulated cat food that include high quality ingredients that help digestion, as well as preventing or relieving hairballs. (See below for more information.)

Commercial Products: You can find a number of products in the health isle at your local pet store that aid in hairball relief. You can consider the tube-served gels or granules that you add to your cat's food, or you can consider hairball relief cat treats. Any hairball relief product is going to contain mineral oil, which can deplete your cat's body of Vitamin A, so you want to ask your veterinarian for a Vitamin A supplement if you plan in providing your cat with over-the-counter treatments on a regular basis.

Homemade Remedies: You can find homemade remedies on the internet that will aid in hairball relief, if not prevent hairballs completely. A few common remedies are below; just remember that you should always consult your veterinarian before trying anything at home, especially if it includes giving your cat something to eat.

  • Give your cat about a half a teaspoon of butter two to three times a week.
  • Up to one teaspoon of non-flavored, canned pumpkin once or twice a day.
  • Up to one teaspoon of squash baby food once or twice a day.
  • Add about a half a teaspoon of cod liver oil to the cat food two to three times a week.
  • One sardine in the cat food two to three times a week.
  • Add a small bit of psyllium or rice bran to your cat's food.

You may find that some people suggest adding edible oils, such as olive oil, flaxseed, or fish oil to your cat's food, but the intestines can digest these oils, so they may not serve the purpose that you hope. But, by providing the edible oils, if you cat has dull or dry fur, the fatty acids will help with skin and coat condition.

Petroleum Jelly: Put a dab of petroleum jelly on your cat's paw a few times a week. She'll lick it off and because the molecules are too large for the intestines to digest, it will come out just as it went in, but while in the body, it will help lubricate the digestive system to relieve hairballs. You can purchase plain Vaseline or other products such as Laxatone, Petromalt, or Katalax. Sometimes, you can even find flavors that such as tuna, malt, or liver that will appeal to your cat. Basically, this works on the same principle as hairball treats, except the treats contain mineral oil which can have a laxative effect.

Regular Grooming: If you regularly groom and brush your cat, you can help remove the loose hairs in your cat's coat. Many cats actually like to be groomed and brushed, but it is best to start as young as possible (IE if you adopt and older cat, start a few days after you've brought the cat home and he's adjusted to the new environment).

by herichon
by herichon

Science Diet Hairball Diet

Alter Your Cat's Diet

If you cat has excessive hairball problems, you may want to consider altering the diet. By adding more fiber to your cat's diet, you can potentially cause hairball relief. Basically, higher fiber foods will help the hair pass through your cat's gastrointestinal tract and into your cat's litter box, instead of on your floor, couch, or bed.

There are many commercial hairball diets that you can purchase, buy you want to watch out because many of them conatin mineral oil, which can act as a laxative.

Instead of completely changing your cat's diet, you can try adding fiber to the cat food. Just be careful not to overdo the fiber because you can cause diarrhea, as it can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. You'll want to watch your cat's litter box carefully for too-loose or too-dry poo.

Other concerns with a high fiber diet can include:

  • Increase risk of urinary tract disease because increased fiber can will hold water in the gastrointestinal tract, causing high concentrated urine.
  • More stool.
  • Fiber helps move hairballs through the intestines, but does not have an effect on the stomach, so hairballs can still get stuck there (petroleum jelly appears to help hair move through the stomach and intestines, though).
  • Increased fiber can cause bloating, cramping, or gas, which can be prevented slightly with a gradual diet change instead of all at once.
  • Commercial hairball diets can be more expensive on your budget.

You will find that by changing the diet, your cat will have an improved skin and coat condition, and the overall shedding will decrease, but this can be accomplished with other special formulated diets as well.

There are many brands that offers hairball relief cat food, make sure that you purchase a high quality cat food. Consider Science Diet, AvoDerm, Nutro, and Purina One.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.


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    • FionaBaron profile image

      FionaBaron 6 years ago

      Ugh...furballs...with 5 indoor cats...we need all of the help we can get when it comes to furballs! Thanks for the advice!

    • profile image

      Asi Eff 8 years ago

      Thank you so much. I have four long haired cats and hairballs have been a problem. We actually tried and took them off of a hairball control food because they seemed to have a lot of loose stool with it. Now i know why.

    • profile image

      ilovethailanguage 8 years ago

      Thank you for this useful information. I have a long hair cat and I'll take this as an advice.

    • pauljorg profile image

      pauljorg 8 years ago

      Interesting! I didn't know that there were remedies for hairballs! I thought that was just something that cats did and there was nothing we could do to ease their discomfort. Thanks! My cat will appreciate the information when I help him ease his hairball problem! :)

    • profile image

      Penelope 8 years ago

      This contains a lot of good advise--I am dealing with a beloved older cat with hairball impaction--we have been going the enema route--at theanimal hospital--one vet said we can try this--i is half better...& I am using Immunocal, yogourt capsules (acidophilusbididus) to restore & recondition bowel--as well as lactulose & Cisapride 2 x a day for softener & motility. Also force feeding a/o, & a teeny tiny bit of Advanced Ambrotose. He gets t/d, & any other dry food he wants but his appetite is low to none. Water in bowls--some days he drinks others he doesn't--so I give him about 6ml. of water daily at least. (Besides a/o Hills) Will try pumpkin again--thank you!!

    • delzky profile image

      delzky 9 years ago

      I have a cat too. But i am not aware of hairball problem. but i'll know now what to do if he exhibits the symptoms. thanks.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Lots of good advice. Thanks.

    • white atlantic profile image

      white atlantic 9 years ago from INDIA

      very informative hub.......thnx