The best diet for hairball control is one that is rich in nutrients, not junk. Yes, it is true. Just as humans are susceptible to developing a myriad of health problems, due to malnutrition, cats are no exception.
And when it comes to hairball problems, diet plays a huge factor. Not only is diet important for curing the problem, but also for prevention as well.
If you find your cat suffering from hairball ingestion and its associated bouts of vomiting, then you can rest assured that this problem is treatable. All you need is to engage in a little bit of trial and error, and pay close attention to your cat’s responsiveness to treatment.
Diet For Hairball Control Options
There is more than one way to treat your cat’s hairball problems. Some methods involve dietary solutions. Some methods involve other external or behavioral solutions. In this article we are going to focus exclusively on dietary solutions to the problem.
The goal is to get your cat to stop vomiting up hairballs. That is the most obvious indicator that your cat has ingested too much fur, leading to this problem.
In order to treat the problem, we need to understand what is the root cause of the problem in the first place.
The Hairball Problem
So let’s take a step back and make sure we understand what exactly IS the hairball “problem”?
What is a “hairball” anyway? (And why isn’t it called a “furball” instead of a hairball? That’s a whole other topic for another day.)
Any astute cat owner knows that one peculiar behavior about cats is their instinctive habit of licking themselves. They seemingly lick themselves all over their body, several times a day, if not several times per hour. Why do they do this?
Cats are essentially hardwired to “groom” themselves – to clean themselves with their own saliva.
This is genetically programmed into their DNA. This behavior is intrinsic to all cats.
Side Effects Of Natural Instinct
While this is all well and good, there is one unfortunate side effect that is caused by all of this:
Unfortunately all that grooming to keep themselves clean comes at a cost:
Everytime a cat licks itself, there is the possibility that some of the fur that its tongue comes into contact with, gets loosened from its body and gets stuck to its tongue. Now this obviously isn’t happening en masse, otherwise you would see your cat developing bald spots very quickly!
On the contrary, individual strands of fur may be extricated from the cat’s body in minute, trace amounts. Perhaps only one mere fur follicle at a time.
This may seem extremely innocuous and no big deal. And that is true. Even we human beings shed hair and skin in miniscule amounts all the time, and we don’t even realize it.
But what happens if a cat continuously licks itself, and gradually over the course of time, individual trace amounts of hair follicles accumulate within the cat’s digestive tract somewhere? These individual strands of fur can all accumulate and get intertwined into a solid mass of fur. This of course would happen gradually over time, perhaps over a period of several days.
And when this furball is formed, guess what? It forms an obstruction in your cat’s digestive passageway? This can make it challenging for your cat to digest and consume more food.
Why Do Hairballs Form?
But this begs the question: Why do hairballs form in the first place? Why doesn’t the fur just pass through the cat’s digestive tract and exit out through normal excretion? Why is the fur getting stuck in the cat’s digestive system at all?
The answer to this question requires an in-depth study of animal biology, which is beyond the scope of our discussion here. But suffice it to say that some particulate matter may be “resistant to the digestive process”, to put it in layman’s terms. Fur can get “stuck” in the cat’s stomach and not be able to pass through.
Why this happens could be a function of your cat’s digestive health. If your cat isn’t eating healthy and getting the nutrition that it needs, then this can cause digestive difficulties. Another contributing factor could be some other health condition or ailment of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, or any other component of the digestive system.
As a result of your cat not being able to properly digest the fur, it gets stuck and then starts to accumulate.
What Are The Adverse Effects of Hairballs?
Once hairballs reach a certain size, if your cat tries to eat any more, this could trigger a gag reflex which in turn results in your cat vomiting up the hairball.
On the other hand, there are some extreme cases where your cat’s hairball is so massive or it is lodged so deep within its digestive tract that it is unable to be vomited out. It forms an obstruction within the digestive tract. This is hugely problematic. Your cat will vomit but the hairball doesn’t come out… Worse, your cat may lose its appetite for food altogether.
How Do I Know If My Cat Has Swallowed Hairballs?
The easiest telltale sign that your cat has been afflicted with hairballs is by observing its vomit. If the vomit comes out in a tube-like shape, that is one indicator that there are hairballs enmeshed within the vomited mass. The most obvious sign is that you will see strands of fur wrapped up in this cylindrical mass.
Apart from these obvious signs, if you can’t tell from your cat’s vomit, or if your cat simply isn’t vomiting, then another sign may be that your cat is experiencing a loss of appetite.
The Best Diet For Hairball Control
If you suspect that your cat is suffering from hairballs, then the best thing to do immediately would be to start reducing its food intake. Give your cat less food at each meal. Space out your cat’s meals further apart.
By giving your cat this break from food, it can buy some time for it to digest any food that it has already consumed, which may be taking longer than usual to digest due to the presence of an obstructive hairball. This has the added benefit of reducing the likelihood and frequency of vomit.
As for what to feed your cat, the best diet for hairball control would consist of foods that are high in fiber, promote digestive health, and which can facilitate the breakdown of the fur follicles and help move them along.