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natural cat hairball remedies

The Best Cat Hairball Remedy: 12 Solutions That Really Work

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.

Here are 12 tried and proven cat hairball remedies you can try at home.

12 Cat Hairball Remedies You Can Use At Home

1. Brushing

Of course, one of the best hairball remedies is to prevent them in the first place.

Regular brushing is a natural cat hairball remedy since it removes much of the excess fur that would normally be swallowed and regurgitated, reducing hairball formation. This is especially true for most long-haired cats.

It also provides a special opportunity for some bonding time with our kitties.

Photo of black HandsOn Pet Grooming gloves

While some cats just love being brushed, others may not be quite so enthusiastic. Introducing grooming time gradually may help them adjust with as little pain (for cat or cat parent!) as possible.
Start with one or two strokes with a grooming glove from HandsOn® Gloves and follow up with special treats so your cat associates this time with something positive.

Photo of FURminator deShedding tool for cats

Another paw-some 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 and prevent 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.

2. Bathing

After you’ve brushed your cat, take hair removal to the next level by giving your cat a bath. 
Giving your kitty a bath can be a great hairball remedy 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.

3. Wipes

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. This further helps prevent hairballs.
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 to collect the loose hair from your cat’s coat.

4. Pumpkin Powder

Photo of Raw Paws USA Organic Pumpkin Powder for Cats

Using pumpkin powder is another great hairball remedy for cats. It contains lots of fiber that helps move the hairball through your cat’s digestive tract and most cats love the taste.
Sprinkle a little pumpkin powder on their food to provide fiber and nutritional value.

5. Carrots

Carrots are another good source of fiber and can help move a hairball along. They’re 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.

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6. Hairball Control Treats and Food

Temptations Hairball Control Treats

Photo of TEMPTATIONS Cat Treats

I love these hairball control treats not only because they help eliminate hairballs but also clean your cat’s teeth! You can use them as a low-calorie treat or as a meal topper. 

The chicken flavor tastes good to most cats, so you won’t have to convince them to take their cat hairball “medicine.”

Nulo Freestyle Hairball Management Food

One reader from Facebook commented, “I’ve not had to use anything extra since switching them all to Nulo Hairball Management.” We love to hear about things that work for real pet parents!

This food promotes hairball control, as it contains miscanthus grass, which is loaded with fiber to help your cat pass hairballs as well as essential fatty acids to keep your cat’s digestive tract lubricated.

Purina One Hairball Formula

Another reader swears by Purina One, saying, “I’ve used Purina One Hairball control dry mixed into their dry food. No hairballs for years.”

This formula is also loaded with fiber but is high in protein as well.

Whatever food or treats you decide to use should contain plenty of fiber to help your cat pass hairballs with ease.

7. Tomlyn Hairball Remedy

Photo of TOMLYN Laxatone Hairball Remedy Gel for Cats

This hairball “medicine” comes as a gel or soft chew. It contains Omega 3 fatty acids and lubricants 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 one of the best natural hairball remedies. It acts as a natural lubricant, and 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 into her litter box without discomfort.

10. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is another natural hairball remedy. It’s an effective and inexpensive lubricant—just a small amount added to their food usually does the trick.

11. Water

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.

Photo of Catit Cat Drinking Water Fountain

Most cats actually prefer to drink moving, running water. That means 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 your kitty to drink more.
Our Pet Living cats love cat fountains, and they drink to their 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 cat food may not be getting the moisture that she needs.

Gradually introducing canned food with her kibble 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.

12. Cat Grass

One Pet Living reader said, “We always have 5–10 cups of organic cat grass growing for them as well as brushing them daily.”

Cat grass is high in fiber, and it even looks pretty in your home!
We love this kind since it’s organic and comes in BPA-free containers.

How to Clean Up Your Cat’s 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

Photo of Kinderbean Dog and Cat Urine Stain and Odor Eliminator

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 time for the formula to work

After you’ve saturated the area, place a clean cloth on top and allow it to set overnight, at least for 12 hours. The biggest mistake we 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.

FAQs About Cat Hairballs

What Does a Cat Hairball Look Like?

A cat hairball, also known as a trichobezoar, often looks like an elongated cylindrical clump. Contrary to what their name suggests, they’re shaped like so because they’ve been formed in the cat’s esophagus. They’re composed of a dense mass of hair, and they may be a few inches long, with a slightly moist appearance and a color that generally matches your kitten’s fur. I know this was worded this way for SEO, but referring to your cat as a kitten does make sense contextually. We could say “kitty,” but a kitten only refers to a baby cat. 

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 that 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 and into a litter box with no trouble.

However, when a large amount of fur becomes trapped in a kitty’s stomach, it gets regurgitated back up in the form of a hairball, or a cat furball.

How Do I Know if My Cat Has Hairballs?

The tell-tale cat hairball symptoms are all very familiar to most cat owners.

They often include coughing, gagging, retching, and hacking.

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 she seems fine,” it could be that she’s just passing hairballs.

Are Hairballs Dangerous to Cats?

Yes, hairballs are potentially dangerous to cats. Long-haired cat breeds are at greater risk of developing hairballs than their short-haired counterparts.

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 your cat is continuously hacking or retching without producing a hairball, has changes in digestion such as diarrhea, constipation, or lack of appetite, has become lethargic, or has a swollen or hard belly, it’s time to skip the home remedies and head straight to your veterinarian.

Is Vaseline Good for Hairballs?

Vaseline may help your cat pass a hairball and is generally considered safe and nontoxic for cats. However, we don’t recommend it here at Pet Living since it’s a petroleum product, and there are many other more natural alternatives.

The Tail End

Cat hairballs are no picnic for you or your cat, but with regular grooming, proper 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!

Check your cat's vital signs at home with this free cat health checklist

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

This Post Has 82 Comments

  1. please help my cat wont eat and its giving me sleepless night PLZ HELP, if anyone has a remedy email am from kenya little vet services

    1. Hi Eric,

      I am so sorry to hear your cat won’t eat! This is definitely a concern I would discuss with your vet. Not eating can cause other health issues and you want her to stay healthy! Has she had any recent changes in her life? That could cause anxiety and cause her to not eat. Try giving her wet food if you haven’t already. Wet food has a very strong scent that can cause her to want to eat it. Definitely talk with your vet and let me know if you find any solutions!


  2. I also have a 20 year old cat. Instead of bathing the cat I use a warm wash cloth and wipe him down. He absolutely loves this as I’ve been doing it all his life. Now all I have to do is wave a cloth in the air and he comes “running” (he’s 20) to get his bath.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Too cute! Thanks for sharing! Baths don’t always have to be bad for our cats. Some really love them!


  3. My cat doesn’t like any of the hairball remedies i give her, and I’m getting annoyed with gagging and hacking she’s doing. PLEASE HELP!

  4. can I use avocado oil instead of olive oil??…both my short hair cats are constantly gagging…tried most things, they don’t like any of the solutions so far…quite picky I guess…no olive oil in my house we use avocado instead…

    1. Hello Jeanne,

      I’m so sorry to hear your kitties are having hairball issues – I know how upsetting that can be!

      I don’t recommend avocado oil for cats as a rule. Here’s why: avocados contain persin, which is toxic to cats. However, we don’t know exactly how much a cat can eat before it affects them – or how much persin any particular avocado oil has. For example, one batch of avocado oil could be low in persin but another could include some of the oils from the pits, which are high in persin.

      So, while cats may be able to eat some avocado oil with no ill effects, that could change if the next bottle happened to be higher in persin or if your cat had just a smidge too much.


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