Cats love to lick their fur as a means of grooming. Sadly, licking the fur can lead to the formation of hairballs. And yes, even cats that have relatively short fur can have these balls of hair. While we cannot do anything about their licking behavior, we can somehow give them the right kind of cat food to help them better manage loose fur. Giving the best cat food for hairballs is one of the highly recommended approaches to the management of these irritating balls of fur. And here are some of our picks for the best based on the personal experiences of countless cat lovers and our own resident pet expert.
Best Cat Food for Hairball Control Buying Guide
Picking the right cat food that will help you control its hairball problem can be downright frustrating. This is especially true if there is no “hairball control” written on its label. However, you really don’t need any of this market labeling as we’re going to share with you a few things about feline hairball and how high quality cat food can help.
How to Tell If Your Cat has a Hairball?
Spotting hairballs from your cat is not really a straightforward thing. Despite the name, these are not the type of hairball that you can form by putting together cut hair from a salon and gluing them together. Unfortunately, this is not the same kind of hairball that other folks may have in mind.
First off, hairball accumulates not on your cat’s fur but rather inside its gut. As your kitty performs its daily grooming ritual, strands of fur are ingested and stay inside the tummy. Most of these are eventually passed out as stool. Unfortunately, in cases where the cat’s digestive system is compromised or is not working as efficiently as it should be, there’s a strong chance that these strands of hair will grow into ball of hair. This is made possible by the constant licking of more hair strands further adding into the hairs that are already in the tummy. Since this ‘ball of hair should not even be present in the gut, the natural response of the feline body is to expel it out of its system, not through the anus but rather through the mouth. In other words your cat will try to regurgitate the hairball.
So how do you know if your cat has a hairball? Well, you should inspect your cat’s vomitus and look for an elongated bundle of cat hair that is typically covered in yellowish-greenish bile. This is the most definitive manifestation of feline hairball.
There are other signs to watch out for. However, do take note that these may indicate other pathologies.
- Loss of appetite
- Nonstop gaggling, hacking, and retching without regurgitation
- Frequent diarrhea or even constipation
How Can Cat Food Help Prevent Hairballs?
Animal experts, especially cat experts, say that feline nutrition plays an important role in the prevention of hairballs. There are a lot of interesting theories on how high quality food can help control the development of such a phenomenon. We have three that are very interesting and provide an excellent theoretical foundation on how food can help control hairballs. Here’s how feline pet food can help in the management and prevention of hairballs.
- Minimizes shedding
It should be understood that the phenomenon is closely related to a cat’s licking behavior as part of its grooming ritual and as a kind of soothing mechanism. There really isn’t much we can do about our cats’ licking. But we can somehow do something about shedding since this naturally increases the number of cat hair that can be licked. It is quite simple. Less shedding leads to less hair getting licked by your cat. This, in turn, leads to fewer incidence of hairball formation. As such pet foods that are rich in ingredients that strengthen both the skin and the hair can help.
- Ensures healthier digestion
High quality cat food can help ensure proper digestion. While some folks would want to steer clear of gluten and cereal grains, some cat lovers don’t actually mind giving these ingredients to their kitties. The important thing to recognize is that cats need more proteins than dogs since they are more obligate carnivores and as such heir protein requirements are best served by animal sources. Probiotics and prebiotics can also help improve digestion. The whole idea is to allow cats to process these strands of health and move these down its gut without waiting for it to form into a ball of hair. The reason why hairballs form is that some loose strands of hair can get stuck in small crevices in the stomach and duodenum. If these gaps can be managed by improving overall digestive processes, then there’s no chance that the strands of hair will collect and form into a ball.
- Promotes more effective bowel movement
What we would like to see is for our cats to pass these hairs right through the gut and outside of their anuses. We already said that strengthening the digestive system can help prevent the deposition of loose hair strands in the tummy. Now, you will also have to think about improving the way in which the bowels are moved through the gut. Regular bowel movement can help remove these hair strands from your cat’s gut. This is where fibrous foods can help since they serve more like brooms that sweep the bowel – including the hair strands – across the gut.
What to Consider When Buying Food for Hairball Control?
It should be fairly obvious what type of cat food you should be looking for, based on what we have been talking about in the preceding section. However, in case you’re not really clear about what to consider, here are some factors you have to think about whenever buying food for hairball control.
- Protein content
As we have said above cats are obligate carnivores. As such, their diets should be rich in protein. This is important especially in hairball since protein is needed for stronger and healthier skin and hair which can help minimize shedding.
- Protein source
When it comes to the source of protein, your primary consideration should be animal proteins. While both plant and animal proteins are proteins at the macro level, there are certain amino acids that can only be found in animal proteins, but not in plants. It is important to read the ingredient list and make sure that the first ingredient is an animal protein.
- Gluten- and/or grain- free?
This is quite tricky since there are cat foods that provide exceptional health despite containing cereal grains or gluten. Proponents of gluten-free or grain-free cat food say that kitties should never consume these kinds of food since their digestive system is not especially built for processing these ingredients. It can also lead to upset stomachs which can favor the deposition of loose hair strands.
- Fiber content
As we have mentioned above, fiber increases the bulk of the gut content making it move more efficiently. You will have to choose between dietary fiber and insoluble fiber, though. The latter is basically your broom that sweeps fecal matter through the gut. The former also increases bulk but contain nutrients and carbohydrates. If you’ve got a Garfield in your home, you don’t want to give it extra carbs.
- Antioxidants and skin and hair nourishers
This is where the addition of vegetables and fruits as well as wholesome grains can help in the management of hairballs. These food items are rich in antioxidants and other substances that can help improve the overall health of the skin and hair. This minimizes hair loss and reduced number of hair strands licked and swallowed.
Feline hairballs can be life-threatening if not managed properly. If not regurgitated this ball of hair can keep on growing and lead to intestinal obstruction. A much better solution is to give them cat food that is high in protein and fiber and provides a good amount of antioxidants. This helps strengthen hair and skin, facilitate more efficient bowel movement, and promote healthier digestion.