Hairballs are the paws down one of the grossest things to deal with as a cat parent. In this article we’ll cover:
- Why do cats get hairballs?
- 10 cat hairball symptoms
- Are hairballs dangerous to cats?
- 10 natural cat hairball remedies
- How to clean up cat hairballs
Read time: 7 minutes
Cat hairballs – if you’ve ever lived with a cat, chances are that at one time or another you’ve come across (or even stepped on) one of these gooey, tubular masses of grossness. Needless to say, we’d much rather spend our time cuddling with our cats than cleaning their hairballs off of our floors or feet.
So what do you do if you have a cat with a hairball? Thankfully, there are ways to prevent these paws-itively yucky gobs of fur from happening!
Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?
Cats are meticulous groomers, and they use their tongues to get the job done. They much prefer bathing themselves over their humans bathing them.
Cat parents who have enjoyed the occasional affectionate tongue bath from their kitties will be familiar with the rough tongues our furry friends have. According to Cornell University, the reason why their tongues are so rough is because they’re actually covered by tiny barbs, or papillae, which are perfect for removing dirt and other debris from their coats. They’re also perfect for grabbing excess fur and loose hair, which they then swallow.
Much of the time, this fur can pass through the stomach and intestines and come out the other end with no trouble. However, when a large amount of fur becomes trapped in kitty’s stomach, it gets regurgitated back up in the form of a hairball, or a cat furball.
What are other symptoms of cat hairballs and what can you do if your cat is getting hairballs?
Cat Hairball Symptoms
The tell-tale cat hairball symptoms are all very familiar to most cat owners. They often include:
Most of the time, these sounds signal your cat is about to expel a hairball. So if you’re thinking, “my cat keeps throwing up, but seems fine,” it could be that she’s just passing hairballs.
Are Hairballs Dangerous to Cats?
There are some insidious signs that your cat is having difficulty with a hairball and may need medical attention. While hairballs typically pass, it’s possible for them to become so large they lodge in your cat’s digestive tract and cause a blockage.
If you notice any of the following signs in your cat, it’s time to skip the home remedies and head straight to your veterinarian:
- Continuous hacking or retching without producing a hairball
- Changes in digestion, such as diarrhea, constipation, or lack of appetite
- A swollen or hard belly
However, if your cat is getting hairballs and has no trouble expelling them, there are things you can do at home to minimize their frequency and help your cat’s hairballs pass when they do occur.
10 Natural Cat Hairball Remedies You Can Use At Home
Thankfully, hairballs are not usually a sign of a serious problem. However, if you’ve ever watched a cat in the process of coughing one up, you’ve probably noticed that it isn’t a pleasant experience for them. And you don’t enjoy the cleanup, either!
You’ll be happy to know that there are a few easy and natural cat hairball remedies.
Of course, one of the most effective ways to deal with hairballs is to prevent them in the first place. Regular brushing is a natural hairball remedy for cats since it removes much of the excess fur that would normally be swallowed and regurgitated. It also provides a special opportunity for some bonding time with our kitties.
While some cats just love being brushed, others may not be quite so enthusiastic. Introducing grooming time gradually may help them to adjust with as little pain (for cat or cat parent!) as possible. Starting with one or two strokes with a grooming glove from HandsOn® Gloves and following up with special treats may make the transition easier.
Another pawesome tool I’ve dug up for kitty grooming is the Furminator. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and it’s a great way to gently remove excess fur that could lead to hairballs.
You can gradually increase the time spent brushing as your kitty learns to tolerate, and hopefully enjoy, this quality time spent together. Brushing doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process. Just a few minutes each day is usually enough for long-haired cats, and short-haired cats may only need to be brushed a few times each week.
After you’ve brushed your cat, take hair removal to the next level by giving your cat a bath.
Giving your cat a bath can help prevent hairballs since you’re removing the loose fur for her. While most cats prefer to groom themselves, if your cat is prone to hairballs, you may have to take matters into your own hands.
After brushing your cat, or after your cat is dried off from their bath, take a pet wipe and gently pat your cat with it, collecting any loose fur. Make sure to use a wipe that’s safe for cats like this cat wipe. Or you can simply wet a paper towel and use it collect the loose fur from your cat’s coat.
4. Pumpkin Powder
Pumpkin powder contains lots of fiber will promote healthy digestion and can help move the hairball through your cat’s digestive tract. Most cats love the taste of pumpkin, so you can add a bit of canned pumpkin to their food.
Alternatively, you can sprinkle a little pumpkin powder on their food and still get the fiber benefit as well as nutritional value.
Carrots are another good source of fiber and can help move a hairball along. Carrots are generally considered safe for cats as long as they’re cooked until soft. You should never give your cat raw carrots as it can lead to further digestive issues.
6. Temptations Hairball Control Treats
I love these hairball control treats not only because they help eliminate hairballs, but they also clean your cat’s teeth! You can use them as a low-calorie treat or as a meal topper.
The chicken flavor is tastes good to most cats, so you won’t have to convince them to take their cat hairball “medicine.”
7. Tomlyn Hairball Remedy
designed to make your cat pass the hairball naturally and safely. Lubricants are one of the best ways to help your cat pass a hairball.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a natural lubricant, but a little goes a long way! A teaspoon over the course of a week is fine for most cats and will help them pass a hairball naturally.
9. Fish Oil
This might be your cat’s favorite hairball remedy! Small canned fish like sardines, as well as tuna, are usually packed in oil. Give your cat a treat and sprinkle a little oil on their food. The lubrication will assist your cat to pass the hairball without discomfort.
If a cat’s diet isn’t providing enough moisture, her digestive tract is working harder than it should, which may make her hairball problem worse.
Most cats actually prefer to drink moving, running water. That means that, even if your cat has constant access to a nice clean bowl of water, she may not be drinking enough. A water fountain is a perfect way to entice kitty to drink more.
I used to leave the faucet in my bathroom dripping just a bit so Olivia could go in and get a drink. But then I got her a cat fountain and she would drink to her heart’s content!
Drinking water is important, but your cat can also get hydration from her food. A cat who eats a diet composed of mainly dry kibble may not be getting the moisture that she needs.
Gradually introducing canned food will increase her water intake. Thus, it will help her digestive tract to move all that hair and debris through instead of sending it back up where it came from.
How to Clean Up Cat Hairballs
When your cat coughs up a hairball on your floor, it leaves a mess! Because they contain biological material, they can stain and even smell bad, so it’s important to clean them up properly.
Here’s how to clean up cat hairballs the right way.
1. scoop it up
Scoop up as much of the mess as you can with a paper towel and throw it in the trash.
2. saturate the area with an enzyme cleaner
This step is critical. An enzyme cleaner like this one will eat the organic material in your cat’s hairball mess. The surface, whether hard or soft, needs to be saturated with the cleaner so it can get in all the nooks and crannies and eat the odor and stain causing bacteria.
But it only works if you follow this next step.
3. allow the formula to work
After you’ve saturated the area, place a clean cloth on top and allow it to set overnight. The biggest mistake I see when pet parents are cleaning up pee, poop, or vomit is to spray the area with cleaner and then wipe it away quickly.
Enzyme cleaners need time to work. Allowing it to set overnight gives the enzymes time to eat the bacteria.
The Tail End
Cat hairballs are no picnic for you or your cat, but with regular grooming, properly hydration, a high fiber diet, and sufficient lubrication, they can become nothing more than a minor annoyance.
Looking for more ways to keep your cat healthy? Download our free cat health checklist!