How to Reduce Hairballs in Cats

Dec 20th, 2010
Many cat owners are disgusted when their kitty gags and brings up a lump of matted hair and saliva, better known as a “hairball”. This problem is not exclusive to long haired cats, and nor is it “normal”.

Hairballs are not so much an annoying habit as they may be a sign of an health problem, or may simply be a result of a cat on poor quality food, or one that is not brushed enough. Having frequent problems with hairballs is very hard on your cat. He or she, surely likes it even less than you.

Hairballs are formed when a cat grooms itself, swallowing loose hair, which clumps together if there is too much, and forms a hairball in the stomach. Cats will often eat grass to induce vomiting, or simply wretch until the hairball is forced up, and out.

If your cat suffers from hairballs there are somethings you can do. The first is to realize that while hairballs are common, they are not “normal”.

File:Long-haired-cat-hairball.jpg

photo source - hairballs may be dry like this, or wet

When was your cats last veterinarian appointment? If it was more than one year ago, I suggest taking the cat in for a check up. There could be internal issues that are contributing factors.

The most common cause of hairballs is low quality cat food, particularly dry cat foods. Avoid foods with lots of filler, such as corn and by-products. These fillers result in a poorer skin quality and therefore more shedding (also more waste in the litter box). A better food contains meat as the first ingredient, such as chicken meal, or lamb meal. You should note that Chicken by-products are not actual meat and are preserved with a nasty chemical pesticide (Ethoxyquin) that has been linked to other health problems. One ingredient that is added to some cat foods that has been shown effective for hair ball control is Beet Pulp.

If after switching to a better cat food your cat still has problems - there are several products sold as “hairball remedies” you can offer these to your cat, or even add canned pumpkin (not pie filling) to his or her food. However a better solution is regular grooming (some cats need to be brushed daily) and better food. Also note that a stressed cat will shed more. Reduce shedding, and you shall fix the problem.

*Authors Note:  I currently have 6 cats, 4 of which have long hair, they eat a good quality cat food and I see hairballs from them less than 1 a month, if at all.

Related Links

Why is my Cat Vomiting

How to Reduce Shedding in Cats

How to Spot Problem Ingredients in Cat Food

How to Bathe a Cat

Brenda Nelson
Brenda attended Olds College to study Horses, working with Arabian horses for several years.  She later went into Animal Welfare and worked in an SPCA for five years.  She wrote a weekly pet newspaper column before moving to a hobby farm. Says Brenda…
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