What is a hairball? A hairball is a compressed, tube-shaped mass of hair, saliva and varying amounts of undigested food. Hairballs can form whenever a cat grooms itself and swallows hair. Since hair is not easily digestible, it can remain in the stomach and form a hairball.
Cats that produce frequent hairballs usually also have dental issues, since stomach acids present in vomit erode the enamel from a cat’s teeth. Loss of enamel weakens a tooth’s protection against plaque and bacteria, which can lead to infection and poor oral health. Read more about feline dental health on our Oral Health for Cats page.
What can be done to help manage hairballs? Most cats do not have to suffer hacking up hairballs on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. By addressing the causes of hairballs and adjusting a cat’s food and other routines, hairball problems can be infrequent, rare events.
1. Feed foods that promote skin and coat health. If a cat is suffering from hairballs, one of the best things to do is find a more meat-rich, more digestible food. When a cat gets plenty of protein and digests the food properly, he sheds less often, swallows less hair, and the little hair that he does ingest is passed more gently with the feces. He also vomits less often and, as a result, has healthier teeth.
Consider foods with high amounts of quality proteins and proper fats to meet the cat’s nutrient requirements. Foods should also include high levels of digestible and non-digestible fiber. Fibers can snag the hair in the stomach and help it pass through with food before it tangles and balls up with other hair in the stomach. A diet high in moisture can also keep a cat’s digestive tract hydrated, reducing the risk of hairball formation.
Stop by the nearest Mud Bay location anytime to talk to one of our knowledgeable staff members, we'd love to help you find a food that promotes skin and coat health for your cat.
View a list of the Cat Foods We Carry.
2. Introduce supplements for a healthy skin and coat. A teaspoon or more of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) fed 2-3 times per week may help to improve a cat’s skin and coat, and result in less shedding. Since cats’ bodies cannot synthesize some EFAs, they must get them from sources in their diet. For more information about EFAs stop by the nearest Mud Bay location to see our brochure, A Short Guide to Essential Fatty Acids.
Cat-friendly grasses are a fresh, high fiber snack that can help digestion and reduce hairballs in cats.
Specific hairball remedies are often made with indigestible oils or waxes that coat the hair and slide it through the digestive tract, creating a form of digestive lubrication.
3. Brush your cat regularly. A cat’s tongue has many little barbs on it, all of which point toward the back of the throat. These barbs act like a brush and help the cat groom its skin and coat. Unfortunately, cats must swallow hair as they groom.
Indoor cats spend a lot of time grooming–up to four hours a day–so many suffer from constipation and hairballs. Give cats a helping hand by combing and brushing them regularly. Not only will these grooming sessions reduce hairballs by helping to limit the amount of hair a cat ingests, they can provide for happy bonding moments together.
Read more about Keeping Indoor Cats Happy.
Talk to a veterinarian. Occasional hairballs are normal. However, if your cat suffers from chronic hairballs, speak with a veterinarian promptly to rule out any more serious conditions.
Please visit any of our stores, we’ll be happy to help you help your dog or cat.
We’re not veterinarians. Mud Bay staff are well educated, and our writing is well-researched, but neither the advice of a Mud Bay staff member nor reading Mud Bay's written materials can substitute for visiting a veterinarian. We offer carefully chosen, natural solutions, but we believe that veterinary conditions should be diagnosed and treated by professionals.