Hairballs develop because of your cat’s meticulous grooming routine, and despite what many owners think, it’s part of a healthy routine. All cats “suffer” from hairballs, but long-haired breeds often have the biggest problems.
Cats tongues have tiny hook-like shapes that catch any loose or dead hairs when they groom themselves. The hairs that get caught in them are then swallowed, which is perfectly natural. Most hairs go through your cat’s digestive system without issue. Sometimes they don’t, and a hairball forms instead, which is then thrown up.
Gagging and retching are the most commonly seen and heard symptoms. Both are precursors to your cat then vomiting up the hairball. If your cat has any of these symptoms, you should contact your vet:
- Gagging, retching, vomiting etc. without producing the hairball.
- Loss of appetite
Tried and Trusted Hairball Remedies
In many ways, the best remedy for hairballs is actually prevention. Cats will always swallow some hair during their grooming, which is literally impossible to stop, but there are things that you can do to help the hairballs from becoming too large and difficult for your cat to bring up.
Add a little something to their food.
There are additives to food that can lubricate your cat’s hair from the inside out, such as the Vet's Best Cat Hairball Relief Digestive Aid gel- 100g. Cat owners simply add a bit to their cat’s food, and many say that they see results within a week or so.
Get to brushing!
Another option is actually to buy and use a brush frequently. Some cats won’t tolerate brushing at all, but after a few attempts, most will actually come to enjoy being brushed.
Removing the loose hair in a brush obviously keeps the amount that the cat will be swallowing to a minimum.
Give them a nice treat.
Most “animal people” are aware that some cats are extremely temperamental and choosy about what they will or will not eat. So, if the additive first mentioned above is not one that your cat enjoys, there is no cause for alarm, as there are many other options to try. VetIQ Healthy Bites for example, are loved by many cats and are affordable treats to help prevent hairballs.
A less obvious, sugar-free approach.
Owners who have diabetic cats may prefer to use a “low-tech” approach, which is to simply put a small amount of petroleum jelly on one of the cat’s paws. Our fastidious felines will lick it off, and it will lubricate the digestive tract and help the hairballs pass through more comfortably.
This is a choice for many people who have diabetic cats because adding a treat to their cat’s food is naturally going to add carbohydrates, which you don’t want. So, using petroleum jelly is a carb-free option.
Throw in some fibre.
Adding fibre to your cat’s diet is also a good way to prevent and treat hairballs. Many cat owners swear by Whiskas Anti-Hairball Cat Treats. Like every other food, some cats will love it, and some wouldn’t eat them if it was the last food on earth. The only way to know is to try.
Finding What Works Best for Your Cat
There are many different ways you can try to minimize the number of hairballs that bother your cat. The methods mentioned above have all helped other cat owners do just that. You may very well find that the best way to help your cat will be a combination of these methods.
It’s worth trying all of them to see which works best for your cat. Regular brushing is something you should consider irrespective of whether your cat is long-haired or not. Do that and add in one or more of the other recommended practices, and, hopefully, you’ll help minimize your cat’s hairballs.