The ultimate guide to cat hairballs

Apr 20, 2021 4:06:48 AM

Cats are lovable and beautiful creatures. They have an instinct to groom themselves and, as a result, they can swallow hair. In the vast majority of instances, the cat will pass the ingested hair naturally and harmlessly through their stools or by coughing. More rarely, and most likely from the excessive ingestion of hair, intestinal obstructions may form. Such obstructions can become life-threatening for your cat if not properly managed by a veterinarian.

Here, we will share with you some tips and advice to help you cat manage hairballs, as well as a bit of hairball formation education.

Some cats are more likely to form hairballs than others

Long-haired cat breeds (Maine Coon and Persian, for example) are more prone to develop hairballs because of excessive grooming and hair shedding.

Also, cats with nutritional mineral deficiencies can be susceptible to developing hairballs.

What to look out for

Generally, hairballs (or trichobezoars) are harmless, but keep a watchful eye for these key signs where your regular grooming felines are concerned:

  • Unproductive vomiting (gagging, retching or hacking)
  • Difficulty in defecating (constipation)
  • Loss of appetite and/or lethargy

If your cat exhibits any of the above, contact your vet to discuss your concerns.

How to manage hairball formation

Whilst hairball formation cannot be totally stopped, here a few tips which normally help manage hairball formation.

  1. Good quality nutrition

Nutrition plays an important role in overall well-being of your cat. High quality, optimally balanced nutrition can reduce the likelihood of hairball formation.

Check that omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid) are included in your cat’s diet. Omega-3 is renowned for promoting skin and coat health.

It is also a good idea to give vegetable fibre to your cat because fibre aids digestion and the maintenance of the overall digestive system.  There are also many medications which can help in expelling the hairball from your cat’s gastrointestinal tract such as laxatives or hairball control medicines.

It is reputed that a teaspoon of olive oil, corn oil, butter, and other mineral oils can be added to your cat’s diet once a week (or as prescribed by your vet). These essential oils help in lubricating and enabling the easy passing of a hairball through stools.

IMPORTANT: Where frequent and uncomfortable hairball formation is observed, it is highly recommended to take dietary suggestions from a registered veterinarian. There are a lot of commercially available diets/products which can significantly decrease the chances of hairball formation. Therefore, finding the right diet is important. TIP: print a copy of Trophy’s Ultra Premium Cat Kibble recipe and ask your vet’s view on its suitability for your cat.

  1. Regular grooming

The approach here is old-fashioned common sense. Less hair consumed by the cat can result in fewer hairball formations.

Helping your cat groom itself can decrease the volume of hair swallowed by you cat. Brushing your cat regularly eliminates the loose hair from their coat.

It is generally recommended to groom a long-haired cat on a daily basis, and twice a week for short-haired cats. If you are feeling brave, you can also use vet-recommended shampoo which decreases hair shedding and the chances of hairball development further still.

Tip: After a grooming session, you can wipe down your cat with the help of moist pet wipes to pick up any remaining loose hair.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Which cat breeds are more susceptible to develop hairballs?

A. Persian and Maine Coon cats are more susceptible to develop hairballs because of their aggressive hair shedding tendency.

Q. Can essential oils facilitate the passage of hairballs?

A. Yes, olive oil and other essential oils lubricate the gastrointestinal tract of cats and facilitate the easy passage of hairballs.

Q. How can mineral deficiencies contribute to the hairball formations in cats?

A. Mineral deficiencies can trigger the excessive hair shedding. Cats then ingest the higher volume of shed hair and, as a result, can develop hairballs.


Weber, M., Sams, L., Feugier, A., Michel, S. and Biourge, V., 2015. Influence of the dietary fibre levels on faecal hair excretion after 14 days in short and longā€haired domestic cats. Veterinary medicine and science, 1(1), pp.30-37.

Loureiro, B.A., Sembenelli, G., Maria, A.P., Vasconcellos, R.S., Sá, F.C., Sakomura, N.K. and Carciofi, A.C., 2014. Sugarcane fibre may prevents hairball formation in cats. Journal of nutritional science, 3.

Barrs, V.R., Beatty, J.A., Tisdall, P.L.C., Hunt, G.B., Gunew, M., Nicoll, R.G. and Malik, R., 1999. Intestinal obstruction by trichobezoars in five cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 1(4), pp.199-207.

Frédéric Gaschen, Disorders of Esophageal, Gastric, and Intestinal Motility in Cats, August's Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine, Volume 7, 10.1016/B978-0-323-22652-3.00011-6, (117-128), (2016).

Norsworthy, G.D., Scot Estep, J., Kiupel, M., Olson, J.C. and Gassler, L.N., 2013. Diagnosis of chronic small bowel disease in cats: 100 cases (2008–2012). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 243(10), pp.1455-1461.

Akhtardanesh, B., Kheirandish, R., Nadimi, N., Nakhaei, A. and Shademan, R., 2020. Report of trichobezoar causing peritonitis in a captive. Journal Homepage: http://www. ivj. ir, 16(2).


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