If you have had a cat for any length of time, you will be very aware of that coughing, retching sound they make when they’re trying their best to get rid of a rather unpleasant ball of hair which has got stuck somewhere between their throat and stomach.
Firstly, it’s annoying, secondly, you know you’re going to be the one to clean it up when the job is done, and thirdly, it’s not pleasant to hear your bundle of furry joy struggling with something.
Of course, you want to help your cat, and you might be under the impression that there is nothing you can do – but there is!
One quick remedy you can use to get rid of hairballs and relieve your cat is the Tomlyn Laxatone in Tuna for Hairball Relief.
Whilst you can’t stop hairballs from actually happening, you can do a lot to reduce their severity and help stop them becoming a serious issue.
Thankfully, on the whole, hairballs in cats aren’t dangerous, but when they build up over time, they can cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract or stomach, and that’s when it’s time to act fast.
- What is Hairball Blockage in Cats?
- Can You Help Your Cat at Home?
- Ten Best Hairball Remedies for Cats
- 1. Regular Grooming
- 2. Baby Wipes
- 3. Specialized Cat Foods
- 4. Distraction Techniques
- 5. Tinned Pumpkin
- 6. Olive Oil
- 7. Butter
- 8. Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly
- 9. Tinned Fish
- 10. Coconut Oil
- When to Call a Veterinarian
What is Hairball Blockage in Cats?
Firstly, we need to understand where hairballs come from, what they are, and how they can cause a blockage.
You will probably already be aware that cats are very hygienic creatures; they’re always preening and cleaning themselves, trying to look their best and be as clean as possible. That is the plus side.
The downside is that hair always comes out, and when it comes out due to cleaning, it has to go somewhere.
Obviously, cats clean themselves by licking, and a cat’s tongue isn’t smooth, it has tiny, raised hooks which can catch onto the hair. This hair is then swallowed routinely, without your cat even realizing it.
Most of the time, this hair simply follows the natural route down through the digestive system and exits the body in the usual way.
However, it is possible that some of the hair remains stuck in the stomach, stubbornly refusing to move. In this case, the hair will tangle, and as more hair is added to it, it will create a hairball.
Cats have their own way of getting rid of hairballs, and that is coughing, retching, and then eventually vomiting the hairball up. For you to clean up, obviously. Cats might be clean, but they’re not so great at cleaning up after themselves!
When the hairball comes out, it is often not round like you would expect, but in a long, tubular shape. This is because, in order for the hairball to actually exit the body, it passes through the esophagus, and this is also long and tubular in shape.
The natural way of getting rid of hairballs happens most of the time, but there are occasions where the hairball simply can’t be vomited back up by your cat, or it just stays there.
The more hair that accumulates, the more chance there is that a blockage within the digestive tract will occur. This can be serious and very dangerous for your cat’s health, so it’s important that if you notice any signs of a possible blockage, e.g. your cat appearing generally unwell, constant coughing with nothing coming up, then you take him or her to the Vet for treatment.
- Certain types of cats are more likely to suffer with hairballs than others.
- For instance, long-haired cats are obviously going to have more loose hair than those with short hair.
- As your cat grooms himself or herself, this hair is going to come out much more easily, and therefore a hairball is going to occur. Persian cats, in particular, are very prone to hairballs.
It’s also very possible that you never really noticed a hairball problem with your cat when they were younger, but the problem became more pronounced as they matured. As cats get older, they become more aware of their grooming and their general cleanliness, so it stands to reason that hairballs become more of a possibility due to this recipe.
Can You Help Your Cat at Home?
Yes, you can! Whilst you can’t eliminate the possibility of hairballs completely, because these are a simple byproduct of the grooming process, you can help vastly minimize the chances of hairball blockage from occurring, with a few home remedies.
There are also many hairball gels and other such products on the market to choose from if you prefer, but the home remedies have been shown to work very well too.
It might be a case of trial and error to see which works best for you cat, and indeed which he or she will tolerate (cats are quite fussy creatures too), but overall, there are some very well-known things to try.
Ten Best Hairball Remedies for Cats
Apart from the use of different types of products, letting your cat eat grass or use some home-made remedies, note that cats need to be brushed regularly, thus removing a larger amount of hair before it even comes into the digestive tract.
1. Regular Grooming
Of course, we just mentioned the grooming causes hairballs, but the more grooming you do for your cat, the more loose fur you’ll be able to get out, which won’t be ingested and cause an issue. You could try brushing your cat daily, and long-haired cats should visit the groomers for a cut around every six months.
2. Baby Wipes
Baby wipes are wonderful inventions and are used for many different tasks aside from cleaning babies!
After you have groomed your cat, try wiping him or her down with a baby wipe, to catch any loose hairs that you might not be able to see. Go for a hypoallergenic type to avoid any irritation with the skin.
3. Specialized Cat Foods
There are some regular cat foods on the market which help to reduce hairballs. These foods include ingredients to boost your cat’s fur and coat, which will then work to reduce the amount of loose hair which comes out.
The food also has a high amount of fiber, which helps smooth passage of literally everything through the digestive tract, hair and all.
4. Distraction Techniques
If you’re noticing that your cat is grooming themselves quite a lot, try and distract them by grabbing their favorite toy and playing with them.
It could be that their high amount of grooming is a boredom issue, or simply habit, and distraction could help to cut the amount of grooming they actually do.
5. Tinned Pumpkin
If your cat likes the taste of pumpkin then a tablespoon or two of the canned pumpkin variety, mixed into their regular food, could help to reduce the amount of hairballs you have to contend with.
Do this a couple of times per week, not every day, and it might be that you need to heat the pumpkin up a little if your cat has any stomach issues and can’t tolerate it cold.
Again, it’s down the high fiber content in the pumpkin which helps the problem, by assisting the digestive system and keeping it strong.
6. Olive Oil
Around twice per week, try adding a teaspoon of olive oil to your cat’s regular food.
Olive oil has a myriad of health benefits in general, but in this case, it can help your cat to digest their food in a much healthier and more productive way, whilst also providing a lubricating effect to the digestive tract, to allow vomiting of hairballs to happen much easier.
If your cat isn’t a fan of olive oil, try butter instead. Melt a teaspoon of butter and pour it over your cat’s regular food. Do this once per week for the same types of benefits that we just talked about with olive oil, but for a more luxurious taste instead.
8. Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly
Once every week, add a little petroleum jelly (Vaseline or equivalent) to your cat’s main grooming paw. This works because the cat will automatically lick it away, sensing something on their paw which shouldn’t be there.
This will then have a lubricating effect on the digestive tract, and help them to vomit up any hairballs, so they don’t become stuck. This will also help to clean out their digestive tract too.
9. Tinned Fish
Your cat will love you for this one! The oil content in canned fish is a great plus point for helping your cat’s digestive system, and again, it’s down to the lubricating effect, making it easier for your cat to vomit any hairballs and keep the digestive tract clean.
Don’t drain the oil away, as this is the part you need the most, so go for fish like tuna or even sardines, and keep the oil in.
10. Coconut Oil
You can use a very small amount of coconut oil in the same way as butter or olive oil, to help your cat get rid of any hairballs. Again, once or twice a week maximum, use one teaspoon of coconut oil and add it to their regular food, for the same lubricating effect.
Coconut oil is also very beneficial for health when used in small amounts, so you’re getting a double whammy effect here.
As you can see, there are plenty of home remedies you can try to help your cat get rid of hairball blockage, and hopefully, reduce the amount they experience in the first place. There are products on the market you can buy, but before you spend money on those products, it’s best to try the free options, from the ingredients you will probably already have in your fridge or kitchen cupboard.
Remember, it’s likely your cat will have preferences, so go for the one they tolerate the best. Perhaps they don’t like the sweet taste of coconut oil, but instead prefer olive oil, and in that case, stick with the one which they enjoy.
This will make it much more likely they will eat all their food, and therefore consume the entire amount of the oil you need them to have. As a result, hairballs blockage should be reduced, and if there are any, ejected much easier. Of course, you’ll need to clean them up, but that is, unfortunately, par for the course!
When to Call a Veterinarian
Hairballs per se aren’t dangerous when they are dealt with in the correct way by your cat. If a blockage does occur, you need to be on the lookout for the symptoms and take your cat to see the Vet urgently.
If a hairball causes a blockage, this can be potentially life-threatening for your cat, depending upon where the blockage is and how large it is. It’s not worth taking any risks, so if you notice any of the symptoms below, seek help immediately.
- Constant, or very regular, attempt to vomit, without actually ejecting a hairball. This also includes gagging, retching, and hacking coughs, without any productive end result
- Changes in appetite, e.g. not wanting to eat
- Becoming lethargic and not wanting to play, when they normally would be quite active
- A hard stomach
- Your cat may also stay in their bed or their usual sleeping place, and not want to interact with you
A Vet will treat a hairball blockage according to its severity, and it may be that an urgent scan is done to assess the size and location of the blockage.
Enemas or suppositories may be given, in order to help relieve constipation, and these should be given to your cat exactly according to your Vet’s instructions. You should never attempt to use enemas or suppositories on your cat without first being told to do so by a professional.
In serious cases, surgery may be needed. This is in order to remove the hairball itself, and any damage or other matter which has accumulated as a result of the blockage. Constipation which has become severe can also cause a side effect condition, which is called megacolon.
This is also a serious condition and weakens the walls of the colon. This condition will also require surgery to correct the effects and may in some cases involve removal of parts of the colon.
Prevention is always better than cure, to try a few of the home remedies we discussed earlier on and see which works best for you.
A bored cat can often groom himself or herself simply out of habit and boredom, so it could be as simple and interacting and playing with your pet a little more.