Any cat lover knows that getting the occasional hairball is just part of the deal. Cats spend at least five hours a day grooming themselves, so it’s no wonder that sometimes they have hairball formation here and there. Luckily, we have the hairball remedy to help your feline friend stay healthy and limit these little inconveniences.
There are many over-the-counter options that are safe for your kitty, but there are also entirely natural remedies you can try. Here, we’re going to explain what exactly a cat hairball is so you can understand where they come from, why cats get hairballs, and some natural remedies to help prevent hairballs.
What Are Hairballs?
Cats are known for their diligent grooming, and all that fur has to go somewhere! A cat’s digestive tract is designed to digest this hair without issue, but sometimes some of it will stay in the cat’s stomach. From there, it forms a hairball. The hairball you find on your carpet is a mix of excess hair and a little vomit. Usually, hairballs are more tube-like in shape, not actual balls, because they pass through the esophagus. But don’t worry! The occasional hairball here and there is completely normal, and usually, your kitty will be back to their usual self after getting it out of their system.
Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?
The most common reason for hairballs in cats is that they groom themselves a lot, and often, all this hair doesn’t get digested. Kittens don’t get hairballs as often as an older cat because adult cats are better at grooming themselves, meaning that they remove more of their fur. In addition, long-haired breeds may have hairballs more frequently.
While the occasional hairball is normal, if you notice that your cat has excessive hairballs, you may consider a trip to the vet. Some signs of a hairball problem include:
- Ongoing vomiting or retching
- Lack of appetite
Now that you understand what hairballs are and why cats get them let’s look at some natural remedies you can try to help prevent hairballs.
Natural Hairball Remedies
You may not have to run out to the pet store and buy any fancy hairball cure. In fact, many hairball remedies are all-natural and can help decrease the number of hairballs in the long run. Here are some of our favorite natural hairball remedies!
Of course, the first and most effective natural hairball remedies for cats is to groom your cat more often. Although cats spend many of their waking hours grooming themselves, they still might need a little extra help from their owners. This is especially the case for long-haired breeds like Persians, Maine Coons, Ragdolls, or Himalayans (all of whom are also some of the most common cat breeds!).
If the idea of grooming your cat sounds scary, here are some tips to help:
Choose the Right Tools
The first step when grooming your cat to reduce hairballs is to choose the right tools. Many cat parents swear by the simplest tools, such as a fine-toothed Greyhound comb. These combs aren’t fancy, but they can help get through both the topcoat and the dense undercoat that many cats have. Plus, you can easily control how much fur you’re brushing through, so you don’t accidentally pull their fur.
Another cool grooming tool is a brush like the FURminator, which has two layers: one that brushes and one that ejects the fur with the push of a button. Once you have the right tools, you’ll feel much more confident grooming your kitty!
Start Them Young
Getting into a good grooming habit is much easier when your cat is a kitten so you can get them used to it. Encourage a happy environment when grooming by grooming when your cat is relaxed. You can also give them treats afterward so they associate their spa session with a nice snack!
Cats can pick up on our energy and if you’re nervous, your cat will be nervous, too. When it’s time to groom your kitty, approach them firmly and confidently. With an in-charge attitude, they’re more likely to stay calm.
Brush Them Regularly
It’s much easier to stay up-to-date on short, daily grooming than to forget to brush your cat for weeks, only to spend some major time combing through their fur. Short, regular grooming sessions will be more effective (and easier on you and your kitty!).
Hire a Professional
Of course, if you just can’t imagine grooming your kitty on your own, hiring a professional is a great way to keep their coat in tip-top shape and reduce hairball formation naturally. Look for a groomer that specializes in cat grooming as they have many different needs than dogs.
A Diet Full of Fiber
Fiber is the Golden Ticket when it comes to a healthy digestive tract, and the same is true for our cats, too. When your cat grooms themselves, all that fur is digested, and if your cat’s digestive system can’t handle all of it, it comes out as a hairball. Adding fiber to their diet will help improve this process, meaning fewer hairballs.
A simple and easy way to add fiber to your kitty’s diet is to choose a cat food naturally high in fiber, like PrettyPlease. Based on whole ingredients like chickpeas and peas, PrettyPlease has naturally-occurring soluble fiber for digestion, and also includes top-choice chicken to ensure your cat’s animal-based protein needs are met. If you can’t or don’t want to change your cat’s food brand, you could try mixing in some canned pumpkin, adding bits of fruits and veggies (if your cat’s food doesn’t already have them included), and making sure they get enough of their fiber from animal-based protein sources. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need a protein-rich diet. Making sure your cat is getting enough healthy protein will also improve their fiber intake.
Plenty of Water
If your kitty isn’t drinking enough water, their digestive tract is likely working harder than it should be (and they may be at risk of other health problems, such as kidney stones, or urinary tract infections or bladder stones in cats). Making sure your cat drinks plenty of water is a great way to optimize their overall health, and prevent hairballs.
Cats have evolved as desert animals, and often, they don’t drink enough water on their own. This is why it’s up to us as cat parents to make it easy for them. Here are some tips to help increase your kitty’s water intake:
- Try a water fountain to entice your cat to drink water. Many cats prefer moving water rather than still water in water bowls
- Don’t put your cat’s water too close to their food
- Spread water bowls out throughout the house to make it convenient for them to drink water. Cats are lazy water drinkers and don’t want to go out of their way to get a drink!
- Cats get the majority of their hydration from their diet. Make sure to feed them wet food that is high in protein. In the wild, cats get most of their moisture from the prey they eat. We need to mimic that for our housecat hunters. You can even add a little water to their wet food to increase their hydration even more.
Water has many health benefits, including a well-functioning digestive tract, which leads to fewer hairballs naturally.
Fish oil helps prevent hairballs in two ways.
The first is that it acts as a lubricant to keep everything moving. Just like having enough fiber and water helps keep your cat’s digestive tract running smoothly, fish oil can help coat a hairball and allow it to pass through your cat’s digestive system more smoothly.
In addition to being a natural lubricant, high-quality Omega-3 fish oil can also enhance your cat’s coat and make it healthier. A healthier coat means less shedding and less ingested cat hair. Omega-3 fish oil may also help with joint health, skin health, heart function, and brain and eye health. Talk to your vet before making any significant changes to your cat’s diet.
A Healthy Diet
We mentioned it before, but a cat’s diet is super important for their overall health, including hairball control. Cats need a protein-rich diet that is low in carbohydrates in order to get the nutrients and moisture they need. Looking at the ingredients of your cat’s food is a great start in improving their diet. Steer clear of cat foods that list grains as their first ingredients (corn, gluten meal, brewers rice, soybean meal, whole grain, etc.) and instead look for cat foods with protein as the first ingredients (turkey, chicken, fish, beef, etc.). This is the case for both wet and dry cat food. Focusing on your kitty’s diet is an important step in reducing hairballs and taking care of their overall health.
One of the reasons cats make such great pets is because they’re clean and bathe themselves regularly! But this can lead to the occasional hairball on the rug. To help control your cat’s hairballs, you should groom them regularly, make sure they are drinking enough water, and make sure they are eating a diet rich in protein, fiber, and moisture. You can also supplement things like fish oil to improve their coat and reduce shedding.