How To Treat Cat Hairballs

Sara Bledsoe, DVM, CVA, CHPV
Published: July 30, 2020
How To Treat Cat Hairballs

As a cat parent, you have probably experienced your cat having hairballs occasionally. Cats will typically vomit a long, tubular mass of hair when coughing up a hairball. This can be distressing for both you and your cat. Here are a few ways to help treat and prevent cat hairballs.

What Causes Cat Hairballs?

When a cat grooms, they will typically swallow hair. Some of the hair will pass thorough their digestive tract and into their feces with no complications.

In some cats, the hair will collect in their stomach and develop into a hairball. After hair has accumulated in the stomach and a hairball is formed, it will then be vomited as a long, tubular hair mass that may be covered in slimy mucus.

In some cats, hairballs can become large and cause an obstruction in their gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Are Cat Hairballs Normal?

If your cat is having hairballs, you’re not alone. Hairballs can be normal for most cats, whether they have short or long hair.

It is not normal for cats to vomit frequently. If the vomiting episodes become more frequent or persistent, or if your cat is not eating, they should be seen by their regular veterinarian for an exam.

Other underlying diseases that can cause vomiting in cats include a bacterial overgrowth, intestinal parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, or GI lymphoma.

What to Do if Your Cat Has Hairballs

If your cat is frequently coughing up hairballs, contact your veterinarian. Here are some cat hairball remedies and treatments that you might try:

  • Laxatone: This is a palatable oral gel that can help bind hair in the stomach and make it easier for the hair to pass through your cat’s GI tract. These gels can help with hairballs in some cats.

  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hairball Diets: Certain cat food formulas are marketed to help prevent and/or control hairballs. These diets are usually high in fiber and help keep the GI motility normal. A few OTC diets include: Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Hairball Management or Royal Canin Hairball Care for cats. These diets may be helpful for some cats.

  • Prescription Diets: If your cat has difficulty expelling hairballs, then you should talk to your cat’s regular veterinarian about options for prescription diets or food additives that may be helpful.

How To Prevent Your Cat From Having Hairballs

One of the best ways to prevent your cat from having hairballs is to groom your cat frequently. Combing and/or brushing your cat’s coat helps to remove the loose hair, which reduces the amount of hair your cat ingests.

Limiting the amount of hair your cat swallows can help decrease the hairball formation in their stomach. The FURminator deShedding Edge Cat Brush is a great grooming tool to consider. It helps to gently remove the undercoat and loose hairs on your cat.

Both short-haired and long-haired breeds can have hairballs. It is especially important for long-haired cats to be brushed daily.

Regular brushing will help to minimize the mats and tangles that your cat will try to resolve on their own. Spending some extra quality time each day to brush your cat will help reduce and/or prevent hairballs, and it helps promote bonding.

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