Hairballs aren’t just unpleasant surprises to find around the house; they can be bad for your cat’s health. They're a natural result of the grooming process, but they can lead to potentially serious intestinal blockages. Long haired breeds and heavy shedders are most susceptible to troublesome hairballs. Take a look at these tips on how to get rid of hairballs -- reducing their frequency and treating symptoms like retching.
Trick #1: Brush!
Brushing you cat daily will not only provide great bonding time, but it will also reduce the amount of fur your cat swallows during self-grooming. There are many brush and comb styles to choose from, and you may also find that your cat enjoys soft plastic brushes more than metal prongs or that one works more efficiently on your cat’s fur texture. If your cat is a heavy shedder or prone to hairballs, consider using a deshedder tool, which can reduce shedding up to 90% by thinning the undercoat.
After a brushing session, particularly a static-filled one, run a slightly damp paper towel or cloth over your cat’s fur to pick up any remaining loose hair.
Trick #2: Tabs, Treats, and Pastes
Many products that are marketed as hairball alleviators are mild laxatives that help your cat pass the hair through his or her system. These can be kept in your pet medicine chest as multi-purpose, for treating both hairballs and mild constipation. Laxatives are usually best employed to help clear up an existing hairball problem and not as a long term solution.
Fortunately, there are many everyday ways you can give your cat the minerals, vitamins, and oils that can prevent hairballs by encouraging coat health. Flavored gels that you apply to your cat’s paw—he or she will be immediately compelled to lick it off—are one option. You can also buy flavored treats that contain fiber and mineral oil for hairball prevention. Even chewable tablets are available in enticing meat flavors and can be found in all-natural, petroleum free formulas.
The old household remedy of using Vaseline on a paw to prevent hairballs from coming up does work. However, long-term usage of this remedy can result in vitamin deficiencies. You also don’t want to give your cat plain mineral oil, even though it is a common ingredient in other hairball remedies. The unscented oil can easily be accidentally inhaled, which can cause very serious health problems.
Trick #3: Change Cat Food
Many pet food brands have lines specifically designed to help prevent hairball formation. Switching to a hairball-reducing food is one of the lowest maintenance ways to prevent them, but some cats may also need occasional pastes or laxatives. Hairball reducing food formulas employ a two-pronged approach: fiber for digestion and supplements for coat health. The fiber from things like brown rice or beet root will help keep your cat’s digestion active to pass the fur he or she swallows through the system. And the vitamins and oils will help keep your cat’s skin and coat healthy, reducing both shedding and grooming.
Try growing indoor pet grass for an all-natural way to encourage your cat to eat more fiber.
More on Cat Care
Why Cats Eat Grass and Other Self-Medicating Habits
What to Do When Your Cat Doesn't Groom Well Enough
5 Common Cat Medications
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.