How to Get Rid of Hairballs In Cats

Although a natural by-product of grooming, hairballs are often indicators of more serious conditions. Understanding the underlying cause of your cat’s hairball problem is important to know how to properly address it. That said, there are a few preventative measures and remedies to get rid of hairballs and decrease the likelihood of their formation:

  • To lessen their digestion of fur, groom your cat daily with a comb, brush, or glove, followed by a wipe-down with a clean cloth to remove excess the excess hair from their coat.
  • Ensure that your cat maintains proper hydration by providing plenty of clean, fresh water on-demand.
  • A fiber-rich diet keeps the gastrointestinal tract moving and aids in the pushing of hairballs through the digestive system. Consider growing cat grass as it’s a cheap, natural source of fiber that cats love to snack on.
  • Food intolerances or allergens can contribute to frequent or difficult-to-pass hairballs. Consider a grain-free or wet food diet for cats that are particularly problematic.
  • Different types of laxatives and hairball treats are available that are packed with digestive lubricants, additional fiber, or emulsifiers that make it easier for hairballs to pass.
  • Special foods that are formulated for hairball control are available with added enzymes, fiber, or emulsifiers that aim to aid in the breaking down and excretion of hairballs.
  • Supplements for digestive support, such as digestive enzymes and omega-3 fatty acids help your cat maintain a healthy digestive tract.
  • Discourage the compulsive grooming habits that lead to excess hair ingestion by alleviating allergens or stressors from the environment.

What Are Hairballs?

Medically referred to as a trichobezoar, a hairball is exactly what it sounds like — a mass that is comprised mostly of hair but also containing fat and protein, which is a natural by-product of your cat’s grooming habits. Hairballs form within a cat’s gastrointestinal tract and are typically expelled. Despite their name, these masses are usually elongated and can vary in size.

Generally, their presence is no cause for concern, however, frequent vomiting of hairballs could be due to some underlying issue and should be addressed. If hairballs are unable to be expelled, they pose the risk of creating a life-threatening blockage, either within the stomach or intestines, which may require surgery to correct. Another potential problem of hairballs is that sometimes they can obscure the presence of respiratory problems, such as asthma, due to the similarities between their symptoms.

Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?

Because of the rough surface of their tongues, as our cats groom themselves, they tend to swallow a lot of loose, indigestible hair. While most hair that is swallowed will eventually pass through their digestive tract and on into the litter box without a problem, some of it remains in the stomach and gradually accumulates into a massive clump of hair, fat, and proteins. At this point, the mass will typically be expelled through vomiting.

There are several factors that can contribute to the likelihood and frequency of hairballs. According to Dr. Richard Goldstein, of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, a hairball once every week or two is not uncommon. If your cat is retching up hairballs more frequently, this could be a sign of an underlying illness or other condition.

Older cats, who are much more experienced groomers, are more likely to develop hairballs than kittens and younger felines. Long-haired breeds like Persians and Maine Coons are also at a greater risk for hairballs than their short-haired brethren. Some cats are, just by their very nature, much more fussy groomers and are more likely to experience hairballs on a regular basis.

The presence of certain illnesses, such as inflammatory bowel disease, can cause a cat to have difficulty moving hair through their gastrointestinal tract. If the cat is also retching up undigested food, this could signal the presence of a motility disorder — abnormal intestinal activity such as spasms or paralysis. The presence of neoplasms, tumors or masses which can sometimes be cancerous, can also obstruct the passage of hair and cause an increase in the presence of hairballs.

Some conditions can cause a cat to ingest an abnormal amount of hair due to obsessive grooming. Cats will lick any area of their body that is painful or itchy. Flea infestation, skin disease, and food or environmental allergens are all factors that can cause a cat to compulsively lick themselves, according to Dr. William Miller, Jr. of Cornell.

If all medical issues have been ruled out, then stress may be the culprit. According to Dr. Miller, compulsive grooming can be the result of anxiety or other behavioral issues. Psychogenic alopecia, also called psychological baldness, is a condition that primarily affects indoor domestic cats and is often caused by anxiety, boredom, and stress.

Preventing Hairballs in Cats

Hairballs may be a natural part of our cat’s lives, but there are a few steps that can be taken to minimize their development and the complications that can arise from their presence.

Regular grooming is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get rid of excess hair, ensuring it doesn’t end up in our feline friend’s bellies or, as an added bonus, on our furniture. Most cats love a good brushing, and it can be a great way to curb the formation of hairballs as well as get in some bonding time, which helps lessen their stress and anxiety, if that’s a concern.

There are many specialized grooming brushes, combs, and gloves available to best suit your cat’s fur type or your own ergonomic needs. To remove any remaining loose fur, follow up brushing by wiping your cat down with a clean cloth.

Proper hydration is one of the most important factors in a cat’s digestive and overall health. Some cats can be quite discerning about their water source so be sure to provide them with fresh, clean water. Try using a fountain-style or gravity-fed water dish to ensure their bowl is always full and fresh.

Fiber-rich diets promote gut health and help to encourage the movement of hair through the digestive system. High-fiber cat foods are available, some specifically formulated for hairball control. Cat grass — a perennial grass, not to be confused with catnip — is a great natural source of fiber that cats love to snack on.

Discourage excessive grooming by addressing the underlying cause, whether physiological or psychological. Visit your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes of over-grooming. Allergies or parasites — such as fleas, ticks, and mites — can all contribute to a cat’s urge to compulsively lick and are easy to remedy.

To try and discourage stress related licking, spend plenty of playtime with your cat. Incorporate lots of toys and cat furniture to provide them with enough entertainment and safe spaces. “Most cats really enjoy interaction. Finding what your cat likes, whether it’s cuddle time with you or a favorite toy that is like a security blanket, can relieve stress,” says Dr. Pamela Perry of Cornell.

As a last resort, prescription medications may be needed and are available from your veterinarian to address any sort of skin inflammation or anxiety symptoms.

Address environmental factors that may be contributing to your cat’s stress levels or increased urge to groom. Try to reduce stressors on the feline by introducing people or change gradually. Keep the home clean and free of bits of human hair, thread, twist-ties, and other materials that could potentially be ingested and contribute to GI blockages.

What Are the Symptoms of Hairballs in Cats?

Though they may be uncomfortable, it is normal for a cat to encounter a hairball every now and then. Hairballs can occasionally be accompanied by a reduced appetite or mild constipation. Your cat may experience retching or gagging while expelling the hairball through vomiting.

Symptoms that are more severe or last for several days are more cause for concern. If your cat is lethargic, refuses to eat for a day or two, or has repeated episodes of vomiting or unproductive retching, you should consult with a veterinarian immediately, advises Dr. Goldstein. Below are a few of the symptoms to be on the lookout for that can indicate a much more serious condition.

  • Frequent vomiting or an increase in the number of hairballs may be one of the easiest symptoms to spot and is often a surefire indicator that something else may be going on. Persistent vomiting can lead to esophageal damage and weight loss. It’s best to visit your veterinarian without delay to find out the cause.
  • Regurgitation of undigested food can be a strong indicator of an intestinal or stomach blockage. Expelled hairballs will commonly have bits of food in them, but if your cat is expelling whole, undigested bits, you should seek advice from your veterinarian immediately.
  • Dry, unproductive retching is often an indicator of a more serious blockage, however, it can also be a sign of a respiratory ailment, such as asthma. Make a visit to your veterinarian as soon as possible if this symptom presents itself.
  • Increased lethargy, depending on the breed and age, may be a bit harder to spot than other symptoms, as cats are known for being particularly “lazy”. However, if you notice that your cat seems to be sleeping more than usual and is being less judicious about self-care grooming, there could be a serious problem.
  • A sudden loss of appetite is always a cause for concern and can be indicative of any number of underlying health issues. If your cat doesn’t want to eat for more than a day or so, and it’s not due to a change in their food, then you should definitely consult with a vet.
  • Frequent bouts of diarrhea or constipation are another good indicator that something is not quite right with our feline friends. Constant constipation or diarrhea often accompanies problems within the GI tract and can be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease. Consult your veterinarian immediately if these symptoms persist.
  • Weight loss can be a sign of a food intolerance, serious blockage, or other ailments. If you notice that your cat has started to lose weight, and you’re sure it’s not due to an increase in activity or change in diet, then you should visit your veterinarian immediately to discern the cause.
  • A swollen abdomen, or abdominal distension, may present itself with several serious conditions — such as abnormal fluid build-up, dietary intolerances, worms, cancer, or a gastrointestinal obstruction. Always visit your veterinarian for a physical examination when there is sudden swelling in your cat’s belly. Blood tests and ultrasounds will be able to discern the cause of the swelling.

Methods to Get Rid of Hairballs

It’s important to remember that, while problematic themselves, hairballs are usually the symptom of something else. Care should be taken to make sure that the underlying cause is understood so that it can be properly addressed. That said, there are ways that you can combat a hairball problem.

Dietary changes are probably one of the easiest and least invasive methods of hairball control. According to Dr. Debra L. Zoran of Texas A&M University, food sensitivity and intolerances are one of the most common causes of vomiting in cats. One study published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association also suggests that adverse food reactions are the leading cause of excessive itching and skin inflammation in cats.

  • A grain-free diet may be a smart switch if you think that your cat is experiencing dietary intolerances. For optimum health, cats require a diet that is moisture-rich, high in meat-based protein, and low in carbohydrates, Dr. Zoran advises. But be careful to inspect the labels of foods that read “grain-free” because these foods can still be packed with high-carb ingredients like peas and potatoes.
  • Digestive support through the use of supplements such as omega-3 essential fatty acids and special digestive enzymes for cats can help to alleviate hairballs by promoting digestive health. According to a paper published in the Journal of Veterinary Science, consumption of excessive amounts of carbohydrates encourages fermentation in the colon and can cause adverse gastrointestinal effects. Supplementing with enzymes may aid in the digestion of carbohydrates and decrease the likelihood of such adverse effects.
  • Specialized cat foods are available that are specifically formulated for digestive health or hairball control. Switching over to one of these formulas may help your cat to pass any digested hair more easily. Some. Canned food may be a better option for aging cats or cats that are experiencing gastrointestinal issues.

Remedies are available from your vet or over-the-counter that can help to get rid of hairballs, either by lubricating the GI tract to help with the expulsion of the obstruction or by the breaking down of the fats within the hairball.

  • Laxatives may be used to help move the hairball on through the digestive system. Laxatives tend to be petroleum based and aim to lubricate the intestines to aid with excretion of the hairball.
  • Hairball treats are an over-the-counter remedy that is typically comprised of fiber or emulsifiers that, like laxatives, aim to aid in digestion and movement of the hairball through the gastrointestinal tract.[responsive_video type=’youtube’ hide_related=’1′ hide_logo=’0′ hide_controls=’0′ hide_title=’0′ hide_fullscreen=’0′ autoplay=’0′][/responsive_video]

Of course, as the saying goes, the best offense is always a good defense, so be sure to keep up with the preventative measures we discussed earlier. Take measures to ensure your cat eats healthily, is regularly groomed, well-hydrated, and stress-free to help discourage the formation of hairballs in the first place.

Neutering Your Cat – Why, How & When

Why You Should Neuter / Spay Your Cat

Did you know that euthanasia is the single largest cause of death for cats in the US today?The feline population is already very overcrowded, and neutering your cat will help the fight against overpopulation.According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, millions of cats both stray and eventually abandoned domestic cats are born each year. These cats usually end up in overcrowded shelters or otherwise left to completely fend for themselves, often dying from exposure to the elements, starvation, injury or disease. A lot of shelters are simply unable to handle all these cats, so euthanasia is usually the only way out for many of these cats. This means that millions of otherwise healthy cats are euthanized each year. This includes purebreds as well as mixed cats.

Misconceptions and Myths Surrounding Neutering / Spaying

There are, unfortunately, some common misconceptions and myths out there when it comes to neutering or spaying your cat, which prevents people from neutering or spaying their cat. Some of the most common once are:

1)” It is not natural to intervene and prevent animals from procreating.”

It is also not natural to domesticate and breed animals on a large scale for profit. We have created the overpopulation crisis for cats, and we should take responsibility for it, and limit the suffering and death that feline overpopulation causes by neutering and spaying our cats.

2)”My cat will become fat and lazy.”

It is true that your cat´s hormone levels may change (more on that later), as well as his appetite. It is, however, your responsibility as their owner and caregiver to make sure they are on a balanced diet and get enough exercise to prevent obesity and health problems associated with it.

3) “I want another cat just like the one I have.”

Just like humans, your cat´s children may resemble their mother or father in some way, but you will never get a carbon copy, and every cat will be different.

4) “I don’t need to sterilize my male cat, only female cats have litters.”

Not neutering your male cat not only increases the risk that it could impregnate dozens of female cats and produce offspring, but it also increases the chance for testicular and prostate cancer, as well as enlargement of the prostate gland. A male cat who is not neutered is more likely to get into fights with other cats and contract and spread infectious diseases, or otherwise get seriously injured.

5) “My cat is purebred, so I should let them procreate to keep the breed growing.

According to The Humane Society of The United States, 1 out of 4 pets that enter animal shelters is purebreds. As discussed before in this article, millions are euthanized each year.

Health Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

In addition to helping solve the problem of overpopulation, neutering your cat early in their life actually has several health benefits for your cat and helps increase their life expectancy. According to Andrea Looney DVM (in an article written for The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine), spaying and castration can provide these health benefits:

Health Benefits for Female Cats:

  • The risk for mammal cancer is all but eliminated if the cat has the procedure done around 3-6 months (prior to their first heat) when her reproductive organs are nearing maturity but her breast tissue has yet to develop.
  • You take away the risk pyometra, a potentially lethal collection of pus in the uterus.
  • You prevent vaginal hyperplasia, a gross swelling of the vaginal wall that occurs during the normal heat cycle.
  • You prevent uterine prolapse
  • You prevent the bulging of the uterus into the vagina.
  • In addition, you prevent a number of infections, cysts and cancers occurring in the uterus and ovaries.

Health Benefits for Male Cats:

  • Helps prevent prostate cancer.
  • Helps prevent testicular cancer.
  • Helps prevent an enlargement of the prostate gland
  • Male cats stop producing hormones that causes them to roam and show aggressive behavior towards other cats and spray urine to mark their territory.
  • Since neutered male cats fight less, this reduces the risk of injury and limits the spread of contagious diseases.

Preparing for Surgery

Both female and male cats are preferably neutered or spayed before their first heat at 3-6 months of age.A female cat must not consume any food three to four hours prior to surgery. The cat is free to drink as much water as they want leading up to the surgery.

What Happens When Your Cat is Neutered or Spayed?

Female cats:
The female cat is first completely put under by anesthesia, an incision is then made to reveal the reproductive tract. Both of the ovaries are then tied off to cut off blood flow before they are cut loose from the body. The blood flow to the uterus is then tied off to stop the blood flow to the organ before removing it. The incision wound is then closed up using sutures and the cat is left to recover and wake up from the anesthesia.

Male cats:The Castration procedure is preferably done when the male cat is around 3 to 6 months and is considered less complicated than the spaying procedure of a female cat. The cat is first put under anesthesia before its scrotum is shaved and scrubbed. Two incisions are then made, one above each testicle, and they are thereafter removed. Finally, the spermatic cord is then tied off before the cat is allowed to recover and wake up from the anesthesia.

The Recovery Period and What to Expect

The recovery period for both female and male cats after spaying or castration procedures is up to two weeks, after which they should return to normal. After surgery your cat may experience nausea and vomiting due to the anesthesia, this is also why it is crucial that your cat does not eat 3-4 hours before surgery, as vomiting can be extremely dangerous for a sedated cat. Straight after surgery, your cat will more than likely look reduced and weak depending on when he or she is released from the vet clinic. Even though this may look very worrying to you as the owner, it is a normal side effect of the anesthesia. A cat that is recovering at home should be monitored closely.

Diet for A Neutered or Spayed Cat

After a cat is spayed or neutered, it´s energy needs is decreased around 20% – 25% according to experts at the Texas A&M University. This means that you should adapt your cat´s diet accordingly. There are many specific blends of cat food made for neutered or spayed cats, that takes this change into consideration. You still need to make sure that your cat stays active and gets enough exercise during the day, to avoid them putting on weight and becoming overweight or obese. If you think your cat is struggling with its weight, check out our article on cat weight loss here.

Sources for this article

Cat Weight Loss Tips: A Guide

According to a 2015 study by The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) an estimated 58.2% of US cats are overweight or obese. Just as for humans, obesity can lead to many related diseases and health problems, such as:

  • Arthiritis
  • Feline Diabetes
  • ​Heart problems
  • ​Joint problems
  • ​Torn or strained ligaments
  • ​Respiratory problems

According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine feline obesity is generally viewed as body weight that is 20% or more above normal bodyweight.

Obesity is a problem largely present in domestic cats that stay indoors. Often times their energy usage is not big enough compared to their calorie intake, and just as their human owners, that will cause them to gain weight.

What Should My Cat Weigh?

Since so many cats in the US are overweight and obese this may indicate that cat owners may not be completely aware of what a healthy weight for their furry companion is. It is important for us as cat owners to monitor our cat´s health and happiness and as such it is important that we educate ourselves on what constitutes a healthy cat weight wise, as to help our cat (indoor cats especially) live a healthy, happy and hopefully long life.

Every cat is different because of their body build and breed, so a helpful tip to see if your cat in specific is overweight or obese is to look at your cat and observe certain physical characteristics.

Severely Underweight
Ribs, spine and bony protrusions are easily seen at a distance. These pets have lost muscle mass and there is no observable body fat. Emaciated,bony, and starved in appearance.

Ribs, spine and other bones are easily felt. These pets have an obvious waist when viewed from above and have an abdominal tuck. Thin, lean or skinny in appearance.

Normal/Healthy WeightRibs and spine are easily felt but not necessarily seen. There is a waist when viewed from above and the abdomen is raised and not sagging when viewed from the side. 

OverweightRibs and spine are hard to feel or count underneath fat deposits. Waist is distended or often pear-shaped when viewed from above. The abdomen sags when seen from the side. There are typically fat deposits on the hips, base of tail and chest. 

ObeseLarge fat deposits over the chest, back, tail base and hindquarters. The abdomen sags prominently and there is no waist when viewed from above. The chest and abdomen often appear distended or swollen.

Also, check out this video from to learn about how to assess your cat´s weight visually.

What Are the Cat Weight Loss Tips?

So, you have just established based on the criteria above that your cat is either overweight or obese, and it is time for your cat to lose those extra pounds / kilo´s. As mentioned, weight gain or weight follows this simple equation: Daily calories consumed – Daily Calories burned. If there is a surplus of calories your cat gains weight, if not, your cat will lose weight.. It is really that simple, yet not that easy to manage, just like with humans.

Stop Free Feeding

If you are free feeding your cat, you should stop and go to a regular meal schedule instead. This gives your cat predictable meal times, makes it less stressed about wether or not it will get fed, and avoids your cat overfeeding and gaining weight.

As you probably already have figured out it then becomes crucial to monitor how many calories our cat consumes daily, as well as monitor that they burn the needed amount to lose weight. Because indoor cats dont get to roam outside and burn their energy hunting for food or running, it is even more important that you as a human owner give them a lot of opportunity every day to expend their energy and exercise, this is also important for a cat´s mental health.

Monitoring Food Intake and Choosing the Right Food For Your Cat

If it is particularly difficult for your cat to get sufficient exercise, it is even more important that their diet is lighter when it comes to calories to counter their lack of exercise, while still giving them all the required nutrients a healthy cat needs in their daily diet. A bad diet that lacks the needed nutrients, vitamins, oils or hydration etc can cause your cat to become sick and get related health problems. Ask your vet for advice on your cats diet.

Another reason why so many cats become obese (this is also true for humans) is the abundance of food and ease of access to food they have in these modern times. Cats in the wild, like other predatory animals, may go days without a meal, always searching for the prey that will guarantee their continued survival. This ingrained instinct also cause cats to want to eat all the food that you give them, because they cant be sure of then their next meal will be.

This is also why some cats eat so fast that they get sick and vomit. If that is the case with your cat, spread the meal over a longer period of time (15 minutes for example), in smaller portions at a time. If you maintain a consistent schedule, your cat will know when to expect food, and you will see less of this type of behavior. If you struggle to maintain a regular feeding schedule or your cat wants food instead of letting you sleep at night, you might want to consider an automatic feeder.

Exercise and How to Activize Your Indoor Cat

If you have to have your cat inside an apartment, and especially if the cat is the only cat in the household, the responsibility to activize them falls on you as their owner and friend. If your cat lives with other cats, they activize each other with daily play, even though you still have a responsibility to give each one of your cats a dedicated amount of playtime each day.

Since indoor cats don´t get to naturally use their hunting instinct and run free after prey, it is up to you to stimulate their desire to hunt daily. 

Avoid Laser Pens

You may know that most cats go crazy when you use a laser pen and have them chase the red dot around. While this does stimulate their hunting instinct and does provide ample exercise, fun other mental stimulation, we do not recommend it, for a few reasons:

  • The Cat will never be able to catch their prey. Since light is pretty hard to catch, the cat never gets a sense of accomplishment for having finally caught it´s prey. When your cat catches their prey, dopamine is released into their system, giving them a sense of euphoria and accomplishment. Playing with a laser robs them of this reward and leaves them frustrated.  So when you play with your cat and help them stimulate their desire to hunt, let them catch the “prey” sometimes, so that they can “kill” their prey as their predatory instincts tells them too. But dont make it too easy for them! A challenging hunt is mentally and physically stimulating for them and will give you a much happier (and slimmer) cat.
  • You may damage their eyes, if you accidentally point the laser at their eyes, just like you could do with humans.

References used to create this article – – How to see if your cat is overweight