Hairball Prevention in Cats: Try These Remedies

Posted: 05/19/2022 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories:

If you live with one or more cats, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen a hairball around your home. Maybe you’ve awoken to the sound of your cat coughing it up, or worse, you stepped in it on your way to the bathroom. In either scenario, these messes are as unpleasant for you as they are your cat.

Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?

hairball prevention in cats

You’ve probably noticed your cat cleans itself often throughout the day. You may have also noticed that their tongues have tiny barbs, called papillae, on them. These barbs help your cat remove dirt, debris and any loose fur when they lick.

All of this dirt, debris and fur gets swallowed. More often than not, the hair will pass through your cat’s digestive system without any issues. But every once in a while, a lot of ingested hair gets stuck in your cat’s stomach and they eventually vomit this hairball out.

Many, if not most cats, will cough up a hairball every once in a while and there is no need for concern. However, hairballs can present dangers if the hairball becomes too large to pass or becomes lodged in their GI tract, causing a blockage. This situation usually requires immediate surgery.

If your cat vomits frequently, and a hairball is not always produced, this can also be an indication of an underlying condition such as a bacterial overgrowth, intestinal parasites, GI lymphoma, or inflammatory bowel disease. It’s important to speak with your vet about what may be going on.

Remedies for Hairballs in Cats

cat hairball remedies

When cats frequently coughs up hairballs, cat owners should follow these hairball remedies:

Laxatone

Laxatone is an oral gel that helps bind the hair in your cat’s stomach so it can easily pass through their GI tract. The gel is palatable and many cats will happily lick it off a plate or their paw. You may also try mixing it into their (wet) food.

Specialty Hairball Diets

Many over-the-counter brands of cat food create specialty formulas to prevent or control hairballs. These formulas are usually high in fiber, which helps to keep GI motility normal.

There are also prescription diets that some pet owners find work very well. It’s always a great idea to speak with your vet to see what food they think might be best.

Brushing

Both long-haired and short-haired cats shed. The more you brush your cat, the less apt they are to ingest their own hair when they clean themselves. As an added bonus, grooming your cat is a great way to share some quality bonding time. Get into the habit of brushing your cat once a week, at a minimum, to prevent hairballs from forming.

Here’s an important tip: After you’ve finished brushing your cat, use either a damp (not soaking wet, just a little damp) paper towel or unscented and hypoallergenic baby wipe to wipe your cat’s coat. This finishing touch will remove any remaining loose hair.

preventing cat hairballs

Other Fiber Options

If you have one of those finicky cats, they may simply not take to a new special hairball food. So how can you ensure you add fiber to their diet? The same way you add fiber to your own, through fruits and veggies.

Offer your cat some cat grass. Most cats simply love this treat. Some cats eat apples and others are happy to have a little pumpkin pie filling (unsweetened only) added to their wet food. Metamucil also works well as long as your cat gets PLENTY of water each day, otherwise the Metamucil could constipate them, which is NOT what you want.

Before adding anything new to your cat’s diet, always speak with your vet first to see how much and how often they should have it.

Fish Oil

A quality omega-3 oil added to your cat’s food can not only help lubricate their GI tract, but fish oil is also great for their overall health, giving a shine to their coat and easing any arthritis pain.

Extra Water

how to prevent hairballs in cats

Do you have one of those cats that simply won’t drink enough water? It can be very frustrating and actually not healthy for them. A lack of hydration not only makes it harder for hairballs to pass through your cat’s digestive system, but dehydration is also bad for their kidney health and may cause crystals to form in their bladder. For male cat health, this can actually lead to a dangerous blockage that typically requires surgery.

Many cats prefer to drink running water, so if you haven’t tried it yet, offer them a water fountain. Numerous pet owners have reported their cat will drink twice as much, if not more, from a fountain than a bowl.

Sticking to a canned food diet is also a good option for cats who won’t drink enough water. Wet food obviously has a higher water content.

And, as a final trick, you can try adding a little chicken broth to the water to entice your finicky cat. Just be sure to make your own and not use store-bought, which will contain too much sodium and other ingredients like onions and garlic that are toxic to your cat.

All cats are different and not every one of these suggestions will work on every cat. But a combination of one or more of these hairball remedies could really help you help your cat decrease the number of painful (and icky) hairballs they cough up each month.

Are You Coughing Up a Lot of Cash at the Vet?

If you have one or more cats, you know that they will require veterinary care at some point in their life. Whether it’s yearly checkups or the result of a sudden illness or injury, you want to ensure you provide your fur baby with the best care possible.

This isn’t easy for many people, especially when the economy is so shaky. How can people give their beloved pets the care they need without going into debt? By relying on a comprehensive pet health insurance plan. Did you know some pet health insurance plans can provide reimbursements for up to 90% of the vet bill?

Pet Insurance Review is committed to helping pet owners give their fur babies the care they need. We bring you only the top insurance providers in the country so you can afford to give your pet the very best.

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References:

  1. Cool Facts About Your Cat’s Tongue. Retrieved from: https://www.petmd.com/cat/general-health/cool-facts-about-your-cats-tongue
  2. The Danger of Hairballs. From the Cornell Feline Health Center: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/danger-hairballs
  3. Laxatone For Cats: Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects. https://cattime.com/cat-facts/health/42082-laxatone-cats-uses-dosage-side-effects
  4. Loureiro, B. A., Sembenelli, G., Maria, A. P., Vasconcellos, R. S., Sá, F. C., Sakomura, N. K., & Carciofi, A. C. (2014). Sugarcane fibre may prevents hairball formation in cats. Journal of nutritional science3, e20. https://doi.org/10.1017/jns.2014.27

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