Get the facts about cat hairballs including how to reduce them

Have you recently stepped into a gooey hairball in your bare feet on your favorite carpet? All cats, whether long-haired or short-haired, develop hairballs from grooming. Cats groom themselves many times a day to keep clean and remove loose dirt and hair from their fur. When cats groom themselves or others, they swallow enough hair to form into a wad in the stomach that cannot be digested.

The cat’s sandpaper-like tongue catches the loose hair which is then swallowed. Some hair passes through the digestive tract naturally and out in the feces with no problem. It is only when the hair forms a wad that it cannot be digested. When the hair builds up, your cat vomits this foreign object, and usually onto your favorite carpet.

Why does your kitty have hairballs?

If you look at your cat’s hairballs, you can see that they are cylindrical wads of undigested food and hair bound together with slime. Cat hairballs aren’t normal or necessary. They indicate too much undigested hair, lack of hydration, or an imbalance in the digestive tract.

Your cat might be shedding extra or grooming excessively because they have a skin allergy or infection. Or your cat might be under-hydrated, especially if they eat mainly dry food. A well-hydrated digestive tract passes hair and debris more easily. Finally, your cat might have an issue in their digestive tract such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cancer, or parasites, that prevents them from processing even a normal amount of hair or foreign objects.

Tips for cat hairball treatment

One important step in minimizing hairballs is to feed your cat a diet that is high in fiber. Fiber reduces the amount of loose hair in your cat’s coat. Also be sure that your cat stays well-hydrated by feeding them a moisture rich diet and making plenty of fresh water available.

Consider supplementing their diet with an omega-3 oil source. Not only do omega-3 oils improve a cat’s fur and skin, but they also improve the ability of hairballs to pass through the digestive tract. Never use petroleum jelly or mineral oils. Spend time every day brushing or combing your kitty. This will reduce the amount of loose hair at the same time it improves their coat.

Cats and hairballs are a normal part of a cat-owners life. However, once you take these preventative steps, you will reduce the amount of these unpleasant surprises around the house and your cat’s health will improve.