4 Ways to Reduce Hairballs in Cats

4 Ways to Reduce Hairballs in Cats

If you are a cat owner, I am almost certain that you have had the unpleasant experience of cleaning up a hairball. Unfortunately hairballs in cats are unavoidable and are part of a healthy grooming routine.

Why do cats get hairballs?

A cat’s tongue has hook-like structures that catch loose and dead hair, which it swallows after grooming itself. In most cases, this hair passes through the digestive tract without any issues. However, hair that stays in the stomach can turn into a hairball. Your cat will usually vomit the hairball to get rid of it. Long haired cats such as Persians, Maine Coons, Siberians and Himalayan are more likely to develop hairballs than short-haired breeds. Cats who shed a lot or who groom themselves compulsively are also more likely to develop hairballs because they swallow a lot more fur. You may have noticed that kittens don’t normally have hairballs?  The reason for this is because they are not in the habit of grooming themselves. As they age they become better groomers.

When a cat is removing a hairball you will hear vomiting, hacking and gagging. In most cases your cat will vomit the hairball in a short period of time.  Unlike the name, hairballs are not round shaped, they tend to appear tube-shaped, since they pass through the narrow passage way of the esophagus.

When should you contact your veterinarian?

If you notice any of the following ongoing symptoms contact your veterinarian:  continued vomiting, retching or hacking without producing a hairball, lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation or diarrhea. These ongoing symptoms could indicate a potentially life-threatening blockage caused by a hairball.

What are some hairball remedies?

  • Limit excessive grooming. If your cat is an excessive groomer, try training your cat to do something other than lick its coat. Maybe teach them how to play with a toy on their own or find a fun toy that you both can engage and play.
  • Brush your cat regularly. The more fur that you can remove from your cat, the less fur that will end up as hairballs. You may find that combing or brushing your cat on a regular basis can be an effective way to reduce hairballs, as well as providing fun, bonding time with your cat. Some cats may not enjoy being brushed, if that is your  cat, maybe consider taking your cat to a professional groomer about twice a year.
  • Feed your cat a specialized “hairball formula” cat food. There are various pet food manufacturers that produce products that reduce hairballs. These high-fiber formulas are designed to improve the appearance and over all health of your cat’s fur, thus reducing shedding and aid in the passing of hairballs through the digestive system.
  • Ask your veterinarian about products or remedies.  Currently a number of different hairball products are available on the market to assist the digestive track in passing hairballs.