How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats – it’s Easier Than You Think

How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats

If you’ve been unfortunate enough to find a hairball squished between your bare toes in the middle of the night, you’ll know how unpleasant they can be. Imagine what it’s like for your cat! There’s a reason it sounds like your cat isn’t having a good time when he’s hacking up a hairball – it’s because he really isn’t.

Hairballs are so common that we think they’re normal, but they’re not. Knowing how to prevent hairballs in cats is a wonderful help to your favourite kitty and the bonus is fewer chances for your to be jolted wide awake by midnight toe sludge.


What is a Hairball?

Well, first of all, they’re not actually balls. Hairballs are cylindrical wads made of hair, bits of food and assorted debris all bound together with some kind of slime. If that wasn’t gross enough, the medical name for hairballs is trichobezoars – tricho meaning ‘pertaining to hair’ and bezoars ‘a mass trapped in the gastrointestinal system’. I’m scared just reading that.

Hairballs are more likely to happen to long haired cats, compulsive groomers and cats who shed a lot. If you have more than one cat, the designated hairdresser of the crew will probably have enough hairball issues for everybody.

Apart from the obvious wads of gross on the carpet, hairball symptoms include retching, coughing, vomiting, constipation and general lethargy. However, these signs of sickness could mean many things, so if it goes on for more than a few days it’s best to see your vet.


Is This Normal?

You don’t have to be a doctor to know that masses are not supposed to get trapped in gastrointestinal systems. Cats are designed to swallow a certain amount of hair through their normal grooming and from any prey animals they eat in the great outdoors. When all is well in the digestive system, this swallowed hair passes through easily and ends up in the litter box.

When all is not well, if your cat is ingesting large amounts of hair through grooming himself and/or other cats, or if there is something amiss in the digestive system, swallowed hair builds up in the stomach and needs to be puked out on your carpet. Never on the tiles.

Here’s what Dr Aarff has to say about hairballs:

Hairballs are common in cats, especially those who live indoors only, but they’re not normal. It’s a sign that something is wrong. Hairballs are commonly caused by too much hair being swallowed, a moisture-deficient diet or some problem in the gastrointestinal tract.


How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats

The easiest way to stop your cat having hairball problems is to groom regularly. The cat, I mean. Long-haired cats need to be brushed daily to help remove loose hair and dirt so that less is swallowed. Short haired cats probably only need it 2 – 4 times per week, depending on how much they shed. How you achieve this will depend on what your cat likes – you may have to try a few different brushes, combs or grooming gloves before you find one that hits the spot.

Making sure your cat is eating a moisture-rich diet will help reduce the frequency of hairball issues. When the digestive system is well hydrated, loose hair can do what it’s supposed to and just pass on through. Cats are not particularly thirsty creatures, they’re designed to get their hydration through the food they eat so if you’re feeding a dry-food only diet this could be the culprit. Consider adding (or switching to) a hairball control wet food as these are high in fibre to help the digestive system do its thing.

An all natural, petroleum-free hairball remedy can be given to your cat to help things along. These work as a lubricant by coating the mass of hair and helping it move along in the digestive tract.


Are Hairballs Bad For Asthma Cats?

Everything is bad for asthma cats. The real danger with hairballs is that they look like at first glance like an asthma attack, so it’s easy to assume one is the other and vice versa. Asthmatic cats have a hard enough time with life as it is, so preventing any extra stress or unwellness should be a priority. Hairballs are easy to avoid by doing simple, everyday things that will make your wheezy one happier and healthier.

How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats

When to See The Doctor

The occasion hairball is probably nothing to worry about, but if your cat is hacking up things frequently you should talk to your vet. Cats are not meant to throw up, vomiting is not a normal thing – if your cat has a hairball problem or a spewing problem, please keep an eye on the situation and go see the cat doctor as soon as you can.

Got a hairball problem? How did you fix it? Let us know in the comments below…


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  1. My long haired cat Lexi definitely suffers from hairballs if we don’t brush her often. We’ve found that the Furminator is a great way to keep her extra long fur from ending up in her tummy and then ending up on our floor. We do our best to give her a light brushing daily, but then also aim for a more in depth brushing at least once a week. This seems to really help!

    Great article per usual! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. This is good information. In college, I had a cat and I remember her throwing up these things. I did not know much about owning a cat I just wanted her and loved her. And I remember I never groomed her like I know how to do now. That probably explains it.

  3. Hi Shirley

    I found your post extremely helpful as my cat always suffers from hairballs. I never actually paid attention to a diet that is moisture rich and how that will help curtail fur balls.

    Thanks for a very informative article it was very well-written


  4. Awesome info. My roommate has the sweetest long haired kitty and it seems like she may have some hairball issues. I know for a fact that the cat doesn’t get brushed at all. I’ll show my roomie this advice so she may get an idea on how to help Sammy Cat. Thank you for the help!

  5. Oh, thank you so much for this article. It is very detailed and helpful. Especially how to prevent hairballs.

    I never knew they were not the norm! We hear from friends about this happening so often, we think it is the norm. Thanks for highlighting that to us.

    I used to have cat friends, but not anymore. Mostly because not enough time. I may have some again in the future. Meanwhile, I will share this with my friends who have cute furry cat friends.

  6. Awesome information, thank you. I have three cats and only have hairball problems occasionally with one of them. But as he is 15 years old I’m expecting a few problems. He likes being groomed for a short time (a few seconds that is!)then starts swearing viciously-don’t know where he picked up his foul language.
    Thank you again for a great article.

    1. Thanks Beverley. I think there’s something in the cat food that teaches them foul language, I sure as shit didn’t teach Sparrow the bad words either…

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