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Hairballs in Cats





There are a number of cat hairball remedies that are available. Most of them are petroleum based and essentially attempt to lubricate the hairball, making it easier for your cat to pass it through the intestinal tract. These work in some instances although not in all cases. Some veterinarians, however, consider these products to be more harmful than beneficial.


There are also a number of commercial cat foods that are marketed to help prevent and/or control hairballs. Most of these diets feature a high volume of fiber and work on the assumption that the fiber helps keep the gastrointestinal tract moving normally. These may work for some cats but are not effective in all cases.


More recently, many veterinarians (and cat owners) have come to believe that a grain-free diet may be more appropriate for cats that vomit frequently. The theory behind this feeding strategy is that cats did not evolve to eat grains. They are obligate carnivores and their “natural” diet consists of a high protein level and low carbohydrate level. Grain-based foods tend to be higher in carbohydrates, leading to changes in the flora (i.e. bacteria) of the cat’s intestinal tract. These changes may change the motility in the intestinal tract and contribute to the inability to be able to pass hair normally through the intestinal tract.


If other underlying disease such as parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, or bacterial overgrowth is diagnosed, appropriate treatment should be instituted.




Grooming your cat is one of the best things you can do to prevent your cat from getting hairballs. Regular brushing and/or combing removes much of your cat’s loose hair before it can be ingested thus limiting the amount of hair that your cat swallows. In turn, less hair ingested means fewer hairballs being produced.