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Preventing and Treating Hairballs in Cats

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If you have a cat, you know how it can be a hygiene fanatic. Cats spend roughly almost a third of their waking life cleaning themselves, so it’s normal when they swallow some fur. What’s not so nice is when your kitty starts to leave disgusting hairballs all over the place.

What Are Hairballs?

It is highly probable you have already had the pleasure of finding one of these “presents” lying around. Their scientific name is trichobezoars and they are a normal problem among cats. Not so much when they are kittens, but when they grow up and are better able to groom themselves.

Hairballs Are a Natural Occurrence in Cats

One hairball a week is pretty normal for most cats to regurgitate but if your cat has been coughing and puking too much, it’s time to pay more attention and try to prevent hairballs.

Besides the wheezing noises your cat makes which can sound quite horrid when trying to cough up a fur ball they have inside of them the hairballs may end up being dangerous to your cat’s health if your cat can’t expel it.

Hairballs Form in the Cat’s Stomach

Hairballs, which are formed in the cat’s stomach, are compressed balls made of fur and food that couldn’t be digested.

The hair ends up in the stomach because it gets stuck in the tongue and cats swallow it when they’re cleaning their fur. While in the digestive system, it starts to mix with other elements, like food, and there you have it: a nasty hairball.

Hairballs Are Formed When Cats Swallow Fur While Grooming

It’s all because cats are very clean animals that feel the need to groom themselves on and on. In normal cases, most of the hair usually goes through the digestive system and the intestinal tract and, eventually, leaves the pet’s body.

The problem is when there’s too much hair and it starts to accumulate in the stomach.

Most Hair Passes Through the Digestive System

In these cases, when the trichobezoars cannot be digested like normal food, the cat feels the need to expel them, usually by coughing it up.

Sometimes, pets aren’t able to do that. Here is where the danger lies. They might be unable to cough them out and the hairball can get stuck in the intestines. If this happens, the pet can suffer from severe constipation and worse.

Recognizing the Signs of Trichobezoars

There are ways of recognizing if your cat has trichobezoars in his body that he’s trying to expel. If your kitty is wheezing and coughing a lot, without apparent reason or any other symptom that can indicate another disease, he probably has hairballs. But, you need to be on the lookout for the “evidence” and try to find these fur balls, because, otherwise, the cat can be suffering from a respiratory condition.

Coughing and Retching

Some kittens also can gag a lot, without puking much hair, and this is normal. They’re probably not used to expelling the usually elongated and cylindrical fur balls.

Lethargy and Disinterest in Food

The main signs of trichobezoars are coughing and retching and eventually you’ll find the hairball somewhere. But, if your cat starts to show signs of lethargy and disinterest towards food, he can be suffering from an intestinal blockage provoked by a stuck hairball in the digestive system.

Checking for Other Health Problems

However, it could also be another health problem and that is why paying attention to your cat when they’re coughing and finding the hairball as evidence that their coughing was from it, not from something else is so important. If you’re suspicious that his state has another cause, then take him to the veterinarian to be checked out.

Preventing Hairballs

Realize first that it is impossible to completely stop trichobezoars from being formed inside your cat’s body. Since cats constantly groom themselves they will swallow hair but there are things you can do.

Brush your cat daily.

The best way to help prevent hairballs is to comb and brush your cat daily. This helps to remove the majority of the loose and excessive fur that will, eventually, get stuck on your cat’s tongue and then swallowed.

Your pet might not be very happy with the new brushing routine in the beginning, but as you make this a routine your cat will eventually grow to like it. The brush will capture all the excess hair that would have normally been swallowed.

An added benefit to having a cat whose fur is regularly treated; it will be a lot easier to apply flea treatments. This is a great advice especially if you have a long haired cat, for obvious reasons, but also for short haired cats.

Use a wide tooth brush for long hairs. The rubber brush will also provide a nice massaging effect that will feel good.

Shampoo your cat to strengthen fur and prevent trichobezoars.

Bathing a cat is not the easiest thing in the world, but when you do use a shampoo that can strengthen the pet’s fur and help prevent trichobezoars. Remember, shampoo doesn’t go on the cat’s head, follow the directions.

Hydrate your pet.

Drinking lots of water can act like magic when it comes to preventing hairballs. As you might know cats like to drink in different places and even from the tap. Have other places around the house where kitty can drink water, not only near their food.

The result will be your cat will drink more water. If this doesn’t work, appeal to a cat’s curiosity and invest in a water bowl that works like a fountain.

Drinking more water will lubricate his digestive system and make it easier for the fur to pass, without accumulating in the stomach.

Include a hairball-preventing cat food in your pet’s diet.

Change your pet’s diet and try to include one of the many varieties of cat food that can prevent hairballs. Look for one that is rich in nutrients and protein.

The new diet can act like a lubricant to your cat’s intestines, facilitating the passage of the trichobezoars. Some of these are even completely natural diets, something that is always good for pets.

Gradually alter your cat’s diet to include more fiber.

Adding fiber to your cat’s diet has advantages but also some disadvantages. The fiber will aid in moving things along in the digestive system, including the built up hair. But too much fiber has the potential to cause problems.

Gradually alter your kitty’s diet to include more fiber because a sudden diet change can cause your kitty to be in unnecessary pain. Cramps, bloating or diarrhea are not something you want your kitty to have to endure because of a too fast increase in the amount of fiber you gave them.

When altering your kitty’s diet be sure to pay close attention to the litter box as you will want to know if their feces is to loose or too hard so you can adjust the amount of added fiber.

Home Remedies for Minimizing Hairballs

Once the trichobezoars are formed in your cat’s tummy they will want to expel them. Getting the hairballs out by vomiting is the action taken since the hair didn’t naturally pass through the tummy and out with the feces.

Sometimes a buildup of hair occurs which makes a hairball and it must leave your cat’s body. The digestive track needs to be lubricated enough to have the hair naturally expelled at the end of digestion.

In severe cases, the hairball can cause an obstruction in the digestive system. If you think your cat is having difficulty expelling a hairball then take your cat to the veterinarian. He will be able to advise you on the problem and help your cat.

There are over the counter treatments made especially for the purpose of helping cats expel hairballs. Some are even flavored so kitty will want to eat it. Just put a little bit of this gel on your cat’s paw and they will lick it off with gusto.

It is easy to make your own remedies to minimize trichobezoars. The idea is to make the digestive system work flawlessly thus eliminating hairballs since there would be no accumulation of hair in kitty’s tummy.

Cat Grass

Give your cat access to “cat grass” if they are an indoor cat. Eating grass will cause them to regurgitate it and any hairballs that are in their tummy. It also works as a natural laxative which helps in eliminating any build up of hair in the digestive system. Kitty’s digestive system will flow smoothly with a little help of cat grass.

Fish Oil

Mixing a teaspoon of fish oil with kitty’s food each day will help lubricate the digestive system and help with eliminating hairballs.

Olive Oil

Mixing a teaspoon of Olive oil into kitty’s food each day will be beneficial as it will lubricate the digestive system.

Slippery Elm Bark

Mixing 2 capsules of slippery elm bark with one tablespoon of boiling water; let cool and then add to your kitty’s food. This herb coats the digestive track which will help your cat bring up hairballs. Doing this twice per week will help minimize hairballs.

Pineapple Juice

One teaspoon of pineapple juice twice daily will help break down the accumulated hair in the stomach.

Canned Pumpkin

Most cats really like this and will think of this as a treat. For every 10 pounds of weight give ½ to 1 teaspoon 2 or 3 times a week. Make sure this is the pure pumpkin and not the pumpkin pie mix.

Squash Baby Food

Give about ½ teaspoon 2 or 3 times a week, most cats will love this treat.

Petroleum Jelly or Vaseline

Dab a bit on your kitty’s paw and they will naturally lick it off. This will lubricate the digestive tract which will help hairballs to be expelled easily. Do this twice a day for five days.


Some cats will lick butter on their own which will help in lubricating the digestive tract thus helping the hairballs to be eliminated.

Prune Juice

This acts like a laxative and helps the speed up the digestive system thus eliminating the hairball. ½ teaspoon a day should do the trick.


Give your kitty a delicious and nutritious sardine once a week. Kitty will surely gobble this treat up!

Of course these home remedies are not to be done altogether. Choose one at a time and see if it helps in minimizing hairballs. As with anything regarding your beloved pet, ask your veterinarian for their advice.