What About Hairballs?


Isn’t it nice that your cat can be its own personal groomer, until you are left picking up a slimy hairball.

What are hairballs?

Hairballs are the regurgitation of body hair after your cat grooms itself. Cats don’t always pass their own fur through their intestines which causes it to collect. This collection of hair is then pushed back out of the cat’s digestive system and regurgitated into a hairball. Hairballs are more common amongst older cats and cats with longer hair. Note that this does NOT include regurgitating foreign objects or the cat’s food which should be addressed as a separate issue.

What causes hairballs?

Cats spend about 30%-50% of their time, when awake, grooming themselves. During this process of grooming, hair is consumed by the cat due to its tongue having backward-facing barbs. These barbs will collect loose fur and your cat will swallow them. Cats, including all mammals, are not able to digest keratin which hair is made of. This means that when the cat grooms itself, the hair should be passed in its stool without any issues. If your cat has a healthy digestive system, then they should rarely produce hairballs. If your cat is having a large number of hairballs, then there is likely some form of gastrointestinal upset. Your cat can also experience anxiety which leads to over grooming, which could lead to excess amounts of hair being consumed.

Are hairballs dangerous?

If your cat is having frequent hairballs, then this may be cause for concern. Hairballs can get stuck in the digestive system causing a blockage that can be life-threatening. Seek professional help if your cat has any of the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Constant retching with no hairball (or vomit)
  • Not eating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • In extreme cases, surgical intervention may be required to remove the hairball to unblock the digestive tract.

How to reduce hairballs

You can brush your cat to reduce the amount of hair ingested while self-grooming.

If your cat is currently on a kibble-based diet, switching to a higher quality kibble may help with the shedding. If you can, try switching half of their diet to wet food. This will add moisture to your cat’s diet and is more easily digested. If possible, switching to a full wet diet canned or raw would be ideal. Whatever food you decide to feed your cat, we suggest adding digestive enzymes. These aid the cat in assimilating their food, getting better nutrients to the organs and skin. Cats need to hydrate but they do not have a natural urge to drink water so adding moisture in their diet is key. ( this also helps their kidneys function better).

Adding fiber may also help your cat pass hairballs.

Products to reduce hairballs

Nulo freestyle high-meat kibble hairball management turkey & cod recipe

This grain-free kibble is filled with natural insoluble fibers. These fibers are from ingredients like Miscanthus grass, which helps reduce the likelihood of hairballs. Essential nutrients from turkey, cod, and salmon oil aid in a healthier overall coat for your cat. Nulo adds L-Carnitine for metabolism support to burn fats and allow for a leaner body condition. It is the combination of all these ingredients that help reduce hairballs and allow hairballs that do form to easily pass through the digestive tract.

Meow biotics hairball buster

This is a food additive with probiotics and two billion CFUs to break down hairballs. With ingredients like fish oil, flaxseed, and various forms of probiotics; this formula supports your cat’s overall digestive system. This allows your cat to easily handle hairballs while promoting healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Vertiscience Laboratories Hairball Digestive support chew

This chew provides omega fatty acids that help keep the skin and coat healthy while also supporting the lining of the GI tract. Keeping the skin and coat healthy will reduce unwanted shedding that can cause hairballs in the first place. The added Psyllium, which is a soluble fiber, promotes healthy movement and function throughout the GI tract. The added biotin assists in healthy skin and normal shedding, while zinc which aids in collagen production.

Optagest Digestive Aid

This product contains enzymes and prebiotics for maximum absorption.










Put together by our staff. We are not veterinarians and we put this together to help educate others on hairballs to support feline health. Please consult with your veterinary with any health concerns.