Speak to a vet within minutes

4.9 On the App Store 3600+ reviews

Cat Hairball Remedies

Cat hairball remedy

Hairballs (technically called “trichobezoars”) are more than just unpleasant things to deal with if you share your life and home with cats. These slimy wads of undigested hair can also cause intestinal blockages which can pose a serious health issue to cats. Most hairballs are not globular in shape. They are mostly slender and cylindrical as a result of having passed through the esophagus when regurgitated. Thus, you may see your cat passing sausage-shaped tangled hairs. Keep reading to learn more about hairballs in cats, including symptoms, treatment, and prevention advice!

Grooming is a natural feline behavior. They spend a good part of their day running their tongue all over their bodies. But in the process, they can swallow loose and dead hair. While most of the ingested hair passes through their digestive tract and is eliminated with the feces without any problem, some remain in the stomach and become intertwined together to form hairballs.

What can increase a cat’s risk of developing hairballs?

Long-haired cat breeds, like Persians and Maine Coons, are more prone to forming hairballs. This is also true with cats that are heavy shedders and those that suffer from compulsive grooming. Other predisposing factors that have been identified include flea allergy dermatitis, and ingestion of non-digestible materials such as thread, paper, and other materials that can become hairball ingredients. Inflammatory bowel disease has also been identified as a factor that can increase a cat’s risk for the formation of hairballs.

In shorthaired cats, frequent passing of hairballs is often considered an indicator of an underlying illness that is causing increased ingestion of fur or abnormal intestinal motility.

Hairballs are a rare occurrence in kittens. But as they grow, they become more adept at grooming themselves and therefore are more proficient at removing loose and dead hair with their tongues, which equates to more hairballs.

A cat’s tongue is unique because its surface has hook-like structures that remove loose and dead hair. Aside from removing dead hair, a cat’s rough tongue also removes dirt and debris.

Symptoms of Hairballs in Cats

The presence of hairballs in the stomach can trigger the cat’s vomit reflex. Thus, you may notice your cat gagging and retching until a hairball is regurgitated or vomited.

Hairballs come in various sizes. Most are usually about an inch long, but some can reach a length of 5 inches and up to an inch thick.

Some cat parents mistake hairballs with feces. But if you look close enough, hairballs don’t have the foul-smelling odor of cat poop. The color of hairballs are also similar to your pet’s hair coat.

Cat Hairball Remedies

Brush your cat’s hair coat regularly

Even if cats are fastidious groomers, they will benefit from regular grooming help from their cat parents. If your cat is a heavy shedder, she may swallow a lot of loose hair during grooming, which can increase the risk of hairballs. With regular brushing, you can help decrease your pet’s risk by removing dead hair before your pet can ingest them. Brushing also helps keep your pet’s hair coat clean, healthy, and shiny.

Ideally, brushing your cat’s hair coat once or twice a week is good enough. But long-haired cats will need more frequent hair brushing. Some of them benefit from daily brushing, especially during shedding season.

Your cat’s hair coat --its length, type, and thickness-- will determine what type of grooming tools you need to have. Make sure that you know how and when to use each tool to make the task easier and achieve better results.

Pet Wipes

After brushing your cat’s hair coat, wipe her body with fragrance-free, hypoallergenic pet wipes. Doing so can help remove any loose hair that escaped the brush. This can help ensure that less hair ends up in your cat’s stomach and reduce hairball risks. You can also use hypoallergenic baby wipes or a damp paper towel for this purpose.

Add Fiber to Your Cat’s Diet

Although cats are obligate carnivores and typically don’t need plant fiber, adding some extra fiber to your pet’s diet can help move things through the digestive tract more efficiently. Some good sources of fiber for cats include pumpkin, carrots, apples, or cat grass.Take note, however, that too much fiber intake can lead to some side effects.Thus, it’s highly recommended that you talk to your vet before starting your cat on anything. A study that evaluated the effects of adding sugarcane fiber to kibble diets of cats concerning hairball fecal transmission showed that the diet in which sugarcane fiber has been added reduced hairball elimination in the feces of cats.

Increase Water Intake

Cats are known for their poor drinking habits.It’s no wonder why many cats suffer from chronic low-grade dehydration, and kidney disease is quite common among cats.

Giving canned or wet cat food is one way to increase your pet’s water intake because these formulas contain at least 65-75% water. Make sure that your cat’s water bowl is clean and free from any undesirable odors.Fill it up with clean fresh water every day as cats hate stale water. If you have the budget, you can invest in a cat water fountain. Many cats prefer to drink from running or moving water. Some cats hate the smell or taste of tap water. For these cats, distilled water may encourage them to drink more.

Add a Supplement to Your Cat’s Diet

There are many commercially available products designed to keep the digestive tract well-lubricated. This can make it easier for hair and other substances to pass through. You can ask your vet about a petroleum-based laxative or a hairball remedy that can be given to your cat.

Cat Food for Hairballs

There are now cat food products that are specially formulated to minimize hairball formation and help with their normal elimination from the digestive tract. The ingredients of these special cat food formulas include oil, vitamins,minerals, and higher amounts of fiber.

When to See A Vet

The occasional hairball is not something to be worried about. However, there are rare cases in which hairballs grow so large that your cat is unable to pass them either through the mouth or with the feces. A hairball could also become lodged in any part of the digestive tract and create an obstruction. In these cases, surgical removal of the offending hairball may be the only solution.

You should take your cat to the vet if you notice the following symptoms: Unproductive vomiting - Your cat is retching and gagging like she’s trying to cough up something but can’t get anything out.

  • Frequent coughing
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdomen feels hard and bloated
  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Poor water intake or won’t drink at all

Read more:

Grooming Tips and Coat Care for Your Cat

Your Complete Guide to Vomiting in Cats

How to Choose the Right Food for Your Cat

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s hairball or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

More articles about cat

Are you concerned about your pet?

Book a video consultation with an experienced veterinarian within minutes.

Get started
  • Low-cost video vet consultations, 24 hours a day Low-cost video vet consultations, 24 hours a day
  • Experienced, licensed vets Experienced, licensed vets
  • Over 700,000 satisfied pet owners Over 700,000 satisfied pet owners

Speak to a vet within minutes

4.9 On the App Store 3600+ reviews