How to Treat Hairballs

Cat napping

Cat napping (Photo credit: popitz)

Experiencing hairballs once in a while is a pretty normal phenomenon for a cat. However, if your cat has hairballs every day or a few times every week, or even if your cat has difficulty getting hairballs out, you might need to help your cat.

Be sure to take your cat to the vet if he really has difficulty getting the hairball out or if he experiences them too often. Otherwise, some natural methods can ease the process or even prevent hairballs from forming.

Common Causes of Hairballs in Cats

Since cats clean themselves by licking, they inevitably swallow a fair amount of fur in the process. Some of the fur will go through the cat’s system and come out through waste, but some of it becomes stuck in the stomach and small intestines, creating a ball of fur.

Some cats experience hairballs more than others. These include cats that lick excessively, long-haired cats and cats that shed a lot.

Sometimes, hair balls can be a symptom of something worse like inflammatory bowel disease or intestinal lymphoma. If your cat is getting hairballs frequently, it’s worth taking him to the vet to rule out a more serious condition.

How to Naturally Treat Cat Hairballs

You could try lubricants or other specially-formulated hairball treatments. However, the David Suzuki Foundation notes that petrolatum — or petroleum jelly or mineral oil — which is used in these products, has been associated with a risk of cancer and other health problems. VetInfo notes that using these products over a long-term basis can prevent your cat’s body from absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Therefore, you might want to try a more natural approach to hairballs.

An easy way to prevent or minimize hairballs is to regularly brush or comb your cat. This act will take away much of your cat’s loose fur without him licking it off. Plus, grooming provides quality bonding time between you and your cat.

Changing your cat’s lifestyle can also prevent hairballs. Eating healthier with fewer snacks and more fiber, and exercising, can create a healthier digestive system that keeps the hair moving. Also, you could try hairball-reducing cat food or treats. The Natural Cat Care blog recommends trying a grain-free diet to see if it helps your cat. You could also add canned pure pumpkin and/or probiotics/enzymes to your cat’s diet.

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