Cat Articles

9 Home Remedies for Hairballs

You know that disturbing sound: your cat struggling to expel a hairball. The retching, gagging, and vomiting noises can wake you at night or ruin your lunch. As your poor cat struggles to rid him or herself of the alien product, you run for the paper towels and cleaning sprays.

Hairballs, or trichobezoars (tricho-, meaning "pertaining to hair" and bezoar, meaning "a mass trapped in the gastrointestinal system") occur after cats attempt to groom themselves. Licking at the coat causes hair to be swallowed and delivered to the stomach. Balls form and when they become uncomfortable, the cat vomits up the wad.

Many cat owners think hairballs are a fact of life, but you can stop these occurrences using a home remedy. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian before trying the techniques below, especially if your cat is elderly or dealing with a chronic illness.

1. Brushing

Shedding is the underlying cause of hairball formation, so removing loose hair from your cat is critical in eliminating hairballs. Brush your cat every day-especially if he or she is long-haired and during shedding periods. Your cat will learn to love these grooming sessions, and you may find it relaxing as well.

2. Wipes

You can finish your grooming session by wiping down your cat with a wet paper towel or a baby wipe. This will help pick up remaining loose hair. If you use wipes, be sure to choose a fragrance-free brand that is hypoallergenic.

3. Olive Oil

Adding olive oil to your cat's food can ease digestion and help pass the hair naturally. If you see your cat struggling with hairballs, consider adding a bit of olive oil to his or her food. Never force oil into the mouth, though, as you could send it into the lungs. Allow your cat to lick it up.

A teaspoon of olive oil every week or so should do the trick. Oil throughout the digestive system will help your cat eliminate hair in its stools and aid in digestion. This should cut down on stomach aches associated with hairballs. Other oils, such as mineral oil, corn oil or saffron oil can also help.

4. Butter up!

A teaspoon of butter will work like the oil. Melt it in the microwave and drizzle over your cat's food once a week.

5. Petroleum Jelly

You can trick your cat into relieving his or her own problems by applying a bit of petroleum jelly to a paw. Your cat is sure to lick the jelly away, lubricating the digestive track. This will help make feces elimination more comfortable, thus removing hair in the cat's digestive tract. Do this once a week or so.

6. Go Fishin'

Many canned fishes have natural oils, and they are often packed in oil as well. Give your cat a special treat with a bit of tuna or a sardine occasionally. You can share your lunch by draining the oil from a can and putting it on your cat's dinner.

7. Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater…

Did you know that canned pumpkin can help pets pass obstructions? Fiber-loaded pumpkin has binding qualities and can assist in the passage of feces and hairballs. Be sure to choose pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which has added sugar. Just mix a teaspoon or so into their bowl of food. 

8. More Fiber

An increase in fiber is good for anyone's diet, and cats are no different. You can add a few tablespoons of high-fiber cereal to your cat's food to help process those hairballs. A quarter teaspoon of Metamucil or another fiber product can be added to the food for the same effect.

9. Diet

Cats benefit from diets that suit their metabolic needs. Choose a product to aid in digestion and hairball prevention.

Warning Signs of Problems

Hairballs are usually harmless, but they can cause a blockage. Call your veterinarian if your cat develops a swollen or hard belly or has difficulty defecating (constipation), unproductive attempts to vomit, or repeated coughing.

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