Feline Hairball Control Through Diet

Most cat owners are familiar with the feline hairball-a dense, undigested lump of hair that your cat may regurgitate, usually on the rug. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of hair your cat swallows during grooming, and ease the passage of any that she does.

Special Hairball Diets

Many commercial cat food manufacturers have developed hairball control diets. These formulations contain special enzymes and higher fiber than regular foods. Powdered cellulose and beet pulp are usually added to increase the fiber content of the food.

While these foods may help the hair pass more quickly through the digestive tract and reduce the likelihood of hairballs, they will increase the amount of feces produced by your cat.

Other considerations when switching to a hairball diet:

  • Reduces sheddingMay cause cramping and bloating
  • May increase the risk of urinary tract infections

Tip: Unsweetened, canned pumpkin can be added to regular cat food to increase its fiber content. Use up to one tablespoon per day, mixed in with her regular rations.

For most cats, regular grooming and an occasional mineral oil or petroleum jelly based laxative is enough to keep hairballs from becoming a problem.

Cat Grooming

Longhaired cats are more prone to hairballs and should be brushed regularly and thoroughly. Shorthaired breeds benefit from grooming as well -- any reduction in the amount of hair available for swallowing will reduce the chance of finding a hairball next to your bed on an otherwise perfect morning.

Begin by combing your cat with a soft brush or comb. Rubber-tipped grooming pads work well also. Remove as much hair as possible then follow with a wipe-down with a damp washcloth. A quick daily brushing will remove hair, stimulate the skin and reinforce your bond with your cat.

Cats shed year round, but more so in spring and summer.

Fleas can cause intense itching in cats. As they itch and chew to relieve the itch, they swallow more hair. Keep fleas in check with an appropriate flea preventative. Bathing can help remove loose fur and soothe irritated skin.

How To Bathe A Cat

Prepare by gathering towels and pet shampoo.

  1. First, brush your cat thoroughly to remove loose hair and trim her nails to protect your arms.
  2. Place a towel, rubber mat or old window screen in the sink for secure footing.
  3. Fill the sink with 4-5 inches of lukewarm water.
  4. Add your cat, speaking calmly and reassuringly.
  5. Gently and slowly, pour warm water over your cat.
  6. Add a small amount of shampoo to your hands and work it into her fur.
  7. Rinse several times until the water runs clear.

This is a highly simplified and optimistic description of cat bathing. Plan for some degree of resistance; overall, cats do not enjoy this process.

Hairballs are unpleasant for you and your cat but they can be reduced or eliminated with some simple techniques. Limit the amount of hair your cat swallows and you will find she has fewer hairballs.