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While hairballs are not an unusual occurrence in the life of a cat, they can be unsightly for you and potentially harmful for your pet. Successful hairball treatment starts before your cat has wretched even once. You have access to more ways than ever to treat and prevent hairballs. Find the fit for your cat with Petco’s selection of grooming tools, hairball relief treats, hairball reduction formula cat food and special vitamin supplements to reduce hairballs in your feline friend.

What causes a hairball?

Indoor cats are vulnerable to hairballs because 1) they don’t usually get a lot of roughage in their diet and 2) they have a lot of time to spend grooming their own fur.

Cats constantly groom their own coats by licking every inch of their fur. In the process, they ingest some of the loose fur they lick which accumulates in their stomach and intestinal tract. When enough fur collects in the stomach, it mixes with digestive juices to form a soft mass – this is the hairball. In most cases, cats can get rid of the hairball by regurgitating it. Sometimes, however, the hairball can cause an upset stomach or internal blockage which may require more direct intervention from you or your vet.

Grooming solutions

Cats are perfectly able to groom themselves, but you should help out if you want to prevent hairballs. A weekly combing or brushing (daily for long-haired cats) will dramatically reduce the amount of loose fur that your cat might consume. Wider brushes are great for catching loose fur stuck in the outer coat while shedding blades can grab loose fur at the root. This kind of grooming also helps circulate the natural oils that cats produce to keep their coats healthy.

After every grooming session, remember to clean up any loose fur you have collected. Some cats find dust bunnies appetizing and may try to eat the fur you have just removed!

Gels and treats

When edible hairball solutions first became popular, petroleum jelly (petrolatum) and similar pet-safe lubricants were popularly used as quick fixes. Today, hairball control gels include all sorts of different ingredients from petrolatum to natural oils that all do the same thing: lubricate your cat’s gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract to help pass or eliminate hairballs more easily. Flavors like chicken, fish and malt make these gels irresistible to many cats.

Newer hairball remedies also come in the form of delicious treats. Many chews are made with natural oils and high fiber ingredients to help cats eliminate hairballs. Vitamin and mineral-rich ingredients also support cat’s skin and coat health. A healthy coat will shed less and require less grooming. Remember to include chews and gels infrequently in your cat’s diet as a treat and not as a regular source of nutrition.

Hairball reduction formula cat food

Many cat food brands offer varieties designed to manage hairballs. These hairball reduction formulas (sometimes called indoor cat formulas) feature high fiber ingredients that help to break up hairballs as well as pass fur through your cat’s G.I. tract. Hairball reduction formula cat food also includes a selection vitamins and minerals (each brand has their own unique blend) to support and improve your cat’s skin and coat health.

Feeding your cat a hairball reduction formula lets you constantly and consistently support your pet’s coat health and help to prevent hairballs from forming.

Dietary supplements

Many hairball relief gels and cat food varieties provide vitamins and nutrients to support skin and coat health, but sometimes more is needed. Dietary supplements can help vary the nutritional profile of your cat’s food, supplying the wide nutrient selection that indoor cat diets may lack. In addition to providing a broader nutritional palette, dietary supplements have beneficial side effects regarding hairballs. The added vitamins and minerals support all aspects of your cat’s health including skin and coat.

You cannot completely prevent your cat from producing hairballs – they are the product of a natural process that helps cats get rid of excess fur they have swallowed. But you can help reduce the likelihood of hairballs as well as the chances that one may negatively impact your pet’s health. A combination of grooming, hairball relief treats, specialized hairball reduction formula cat food and dietary supplements is a good start towards clearing up and preventing hairballs in your cat.