Effective Strategies To Manage Hairball Formation In Cats

Author: Dr. John Abbass
DVM  M.Phil (Veterinary Microbiology), University of Edinburgh

Effective Strategies To Manage Hairball Formation In Cats

Cats are lovable and beautiful creatures.  They have a natural instinct to lick their body coat and swallow hair. This is why cats are known as ‘groomers’. Normally, cat passes the ingested hair through her stool and coughs but seldom excessive swallowing of hair causes obstruction of the intestine (due to formation of hairballs). This intestinal obstruction can become life-threatening for your pretty cat, if not properly managed.

Here, we will throw some light on a few important strategies to manage hairball formation in cats.


Long-haired cat breeds (Maine coon cats and Persian cats) are more prone to develop hairballs because of excessive grooming and hair shedding.

Cats having mineral deficiencies are also susceptible to develop hairballs.


Albeit hairball formation can’t be totally stopped but there are a few ways which show good results in minimizing its occurrence.  Let’s discuss them one by one.


Generally, hairballs (Trichobezoars) are harmless but can also put your cat into trouble. Some important key signs have been listed below:

Unproductive vomiting (gagging.retching,hacking)

Difficulty in defecating (constipation)

Anorexia (loss of appetite), lethargy

Diarrhea can also be seen in rare cases.



Nutrition plays an important role in overall well-being and better performance of cats. High quality nutrition reduces the likelihood of hairball formation in cats. Being a responsible owner, you should monitor whether your cat is taking all necessary nutrients (micro/macro) or not.

Also include omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid) in your cat’s diet. Omega-3 promotes skin and coat health and makes them shinier.”

Give your cat a wholesome diet

It is also a good idea to give vegetable fiber to your cat because fiber aids in better digestion and 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, hairball control medicines.

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

NOTE: This is highly recommended to take dietary suggestions from a registered veterinarian. There are a lot of commercially available diets/products which significantly decrease the chances of hairball formation.


                        LESS CONSUMED HAIR      A FEWER HAIRBALLS

Regular grooming decreases the swallowing of hair by cats and ultimately reduces the development of the hairball. Brushing eliminates the loose/dead hair on their coat. Additionally, you can train your cat to get regular grooming sessions.

Cat being groomed with pet glooming gloves

This is generally recommended to groom a long-haired cat on a daily basis and twice in a week for short-haired cats. You can also use vet-recommended shampoo which decreases the hair shedding and chances of hairball development

NOTE: You can also schedule a regular haircut for your cut. This is advised to stay in touch of a professional cat groomer.  After a grooming session, you can wipe down your cat with the help of baby wipes/wet paper towel. Wet wipes will pick up the remaining loose hair.


1)    Train her not to do self-grooming. Engage your cat in other activities (playing with toys etc).

2)    Brush/comb your cat on regular basis

3)    Take care of your cat’s nutrition and give her specially formulated diets (which control the hair shedding thus reduce hairball formation)

4)    Use laxative and other hairball medications to facilitate your cat in passing the hairball through feces.

5)    Give your cat essential oils (olive oil) to lubricate the gastrointestinal tract and quick passage of hairball.



 Renan A. Donadelli, Charles G. Aldrich, The effects of diets varying in fibre sources on          nutrient utilization, stool quality and hairball management in cats, Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 10.1111/jpn.13289, 104, 2, (715-724), (2019).


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).


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