Hairballs are a naturally occurring part of your cat’s life, and unpleasant and potentially dangerous as they are, there are ways you can help your cat to pass them with ease.
According to the SPCA your cat will spend 5 hours a day grooming which is a behaviour they learn as a kitten from their mother. All this licking with their rough tongues pulls hairs and debris into their stomach which is then later regurgitated as a rather unpleasant hairball. A hairball a week is fairly normal, but more than this and it could be a problem.
It can’t be nice to have to hoik up such a goopy mass and definitely an undignified process for your kitty, so why not help them? Whilst they can do most of the work themselves, there are some natural and effective ways you can reduce and in some cases prevent hairballs from occurring.
1) Start with brushing the coat regularly.
This might sound like a bit of simple advice, but it doesn’t hurt to reconsider your current grooming regime. Are you brushing your cat enough yourself or relying on them to do the hard work? The more dead hairs that you brush out, the fewer that will end up in your cat’s stomach. You can invest in a good brush or mitt to make things easier and improve the bonding experience with your cat. Make sure to dispose of as much hair as possible afterwards.
2) Use baby wipes to remove the rest of the dead hair.
Following on from brushing, you can also use something like a simple baby wipe on your cat’s coat. The moisture content will help to deal with and static in the coat and the texture of the cloth should pick up some of the stray hairs. Again, dispose of it safely so the hairs don’t end up everywhere.
3) Consider switching from dry food to wet food.
The water content of their food can make a big difference when it comes to lubricating their digestive system – as well as any contents making their way through. A mass of hair caught up with wet cat food has a better chance of passing through than one clogged up with dry kibble. So, if your cat primarily eats dry food, make the switch.
4) Add more fish to your cat’s diet.
The protein source in your cat’s food can make a big difference too. Fish-based diets provide more oils and lubricants to help the hair pass with greater ease. You could look for wet food with real pieces of salmon or other fish. Or, you could get some sardines and add those to the bowl now and then. Sardines are great as they have plenty of omega oils for brain health. Just remember to use them in moderation.
5) Fish oils alone could be enough to help.
If you don’t want to change the main source of food in your cat’s diet, for fears of them getting fussy, you could find a way to add the fish oils from fish products. Tinned tuna and mackerel in their own oils are great. When draining the tins, save the oils and juices and pour them over your cat’s meal. Don’t do this with brine as this is too salty.
6) Coconut oil can also help with hairballs
There are other types of oil around that can help. Coconut oil is popular for all kinds of natural human healthcare issues. So, it makes sense that we would want to try it out with our pets. You only need to add about half a teaspoon to their food a couple of times a week to see an effect. It can lubricate the hair and also act as a laxative for any hair they are struggling to pass in their intestines.
7) Olive oil is easily accessible oil to use
There is no doubt that it is also a safe and natural way to add beneficial oils to your cat’s diet. It does more than act as a lubricant as there are essential omega oils and other health-giving properties too. There is also some link between olives and catnip that apparently means that cats appreciate olive oil a lot. You can either add olive oil from your cupboard or use fish in olive oil for double the benefits. Extra virgin olive oil is the safest with the smaller risk of chemicals.
8) Some owners prefer to use butter as a lubricant
Butter can also work as a way of lubricating a meal and allowing any food and hair to slide into the stomach and pass with greater ease. Again, this is an accessible option. But, you need to be careful that the fats don’t have a negative impact on your pet’s weight. Overweight cats may need a different solution.
9) You can add more fibre to their diet
An alternative to adding oils to a diet is to add more fibre. There are lots of pet food brands that will offer food with added fibre of some kind. This is less about the lubrication at the start of the digestive process and more about improving gut health and the regularity of bowel movements. The hair has to come out one way or the other.
10) Pumpkin can help with fibre a lot.
One of the more interesting sources of fibre used by cat owners for cat hairballs, is pumpkin. This isn’t as common an ingredient as some other fruits and vegetables. But, the combination of the lubricating juices and the fibrous pulp can make a big difference. The taste is pretty good too. You can add this to your pet’s food either from a can or fresh. Fresh takes a lot more preparation and is seasonally dependent. But, canned pumpkin could have less nutritional value and more sugar.
11) Petroleum jelly is an alternative way to lubricate the digestive tract.
This is a bit of a strange one, but something that is mentioned a lot by those trying to help other cat owners in this situation. Instead of focusing on what you can put in your cat’s meals – which could lead to them turning their nose up at their bowl – you could put something on their paws. The idea here is that the cat licks off the petroleum jelly (laxatone is best for cats) and this passes through their system, lubricating any hair along the way.
There is a lot of debate over the use of Vaseline® as a lubricant. This is designed for topical application rather than ingestion but in tiny amounts should not harm your cat as the molecules are too large for absorption and should pass straight through your cat’s digestive system.
12) Don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh, clean water.
Finally, you can’t overlook the importance of plenty of fresh, clean water to keep your cat hydrated and to help flush anything in their throat and stomach through their system. Cats that drink regularly can keep their throat and esophagus lubricated pretty well, lowering the need for any oils or other treatments. You may still need to use oils if you are worried about a blockage, however. Replace the water regularly so that it doesn’t get dusty or dirty. This could lead to additional health problems and irritation.
So there you have it. 12 simple, natural and effective ways to help your cat with their hairball issues.